On the road to IPO, Enphase Energy doubles sales

Enphase Energy, which makes solar electronics and filed for an IPO last June, is still waiting for the right time to make its public market debut. But in the meantime, it’s been boosting its sales. The company more than doubled its 2011 revenues and is moving into a larger headquarters, according to a filing.

The company generated $149.5 million in revenues during 2011, compared with $61.7 million during 2010. At the same time, Enphase widened its net losses during the same period, to $32.3 million from $21.8 million.

Most of the 2011 revenues came from sales within the U.S. while 12 percent came from Canada. The company also started selling in European countries such as France and Italy in the fourth quarter. The majority of the revenues for 2012 should still come from the U.S., while the rest will come from Canada and Europe, the company said. Enphase expects to post more losses in 2012 given its need to put more money into scaling up its production and sales.

Enphase, founded in 2006, develops microinverters, which are attached to each solar panel to monitor power output and convert the direct current from the solar cells inside the panel to alternating current for feeding the grid. The Petaluma, Calif., company is a pioneer in carving out a market for microinverters, which also has gained more converts thanks to a growing number of microinverter makers. The conventional design of a solar electric system calls for pairing an inverter with about a dozen solar panels, which is a centralized approach that Enphase and other microinverter developers say is less effective at tracking and improving the power output of each solar panel.

However, microinverters are more expensive than central inverters, so a key to popularizing them involves convincing installers that adding the cost of microinverters is a worthy upfront investment because they can get more power out of the solar electric system during its lifetime.

Since its IPO filing, Enphase has raised a private round of $21.86 million to support its expansion plans while waiting for an optimal time to go public. Though it was early to the market with an innovative product, it’s since facing a growing challenge from not just startups but also major inverter makers such as SMA Technology and Power-One. SMA plans to launch a microinverter this year. Power-One (s PWER) introduced its own version last year. SunPower (s SPWR) plans to package microinverters from SolarBridge Technologies to its solar panels starting this year.

Enphase is moving into a new and larger headquarters in Petaluma, though it won’t completely move out of its current space until the second quarter of this year. The company outsources manufacturing to two companies: Flextronics and Phoenix Contact.