The solar industry is just starting to understand the benefits of distributed solar inverters — the devices that convert direct current (DC) to grid-usable alternating current (AC). While most solar panels use a centralized inverter, inverter-maker Enphase Energy says slapping a cell phone-sized distributed inverter on the back of every solar panel can help harvest 5 to 25 percent more energy. Investors are getting it too, and this morning Enphase says it has raised $15 million in new funding led by RockPort Capital Partners, and including Third Point Ventures and Applied Ventures (VC arm of Applied Materials).
Enphase CEO Paul Nahi says the company plans to use the money to keep growing to meet what it says is “tremendous demand.” Nahi says the company has sold about 1,000 inverter systems, half for residential systems and half to commercial installations; Enphase sells its systems through the traditional inverter channel of solar installers.
Beyond the micro-inverter system, the company also uses an integrated solar monitoring service, which stems from the IT world — not a surprise given the company boasts several “20-year veterans” from infotech. The monitoring system checks the solar setup every five minutes and reports back if certain panels aren’t producing adequately or are in too much shade or need to be cleaned. We’re not entirely clear on the setup of how it’s networked and what pipes send what data; the company says it is proprietary. But Dan Kammen, director of UC Berkeley’s Renewable Energy Labs, recently attested to the company’s innovative use of broadband technology to deliver solar services. So they must be doing something right.