The IHS iSuppli team looks at the inside one of the world's best-selling solar power installations.
The Aurora Power-One Uno range of inverters targets renewable energy applications, and is one of the more established in its field, following its launch in 2005.
Aurora's global business has surged since 2008, thanks to the growing interest in solar installations, and public subsidies for them in some markets. The company cites research showing that it had moved from ninth in its market to second by the end of 2010, shipping more than 2.6GW of inverters during that period.
The PVI-4.2-OUTD-S-US single-phase product in this teardown is a ruggedised consumer item specifically intended for residential and outdoor use. It targets what Aurora describes as 'an average-sized family home'. However, due to its comparatively sophisticated design and functionality, it is typically offered as part of a full installation package by a professional company, rather than being sold direct to the public.
It has dual inputs and transformerless operation for maximum efficiency (up to a claimed 97 per cent). An optional DC disconnect switch is designated in the unit number by an additional 'S' suffix.
The 'US' suffix further denotes its use in the North American market. A number of variants of the products are produced for multiple regional markets, owing to regional power supply differences and regulations.
It should therefore be noted that, whilst we have assumed a total production volume for this product of 125,000 units over five years, it features a number of cross-platform components and the extra buying power, which is reflected in the estimated cost.
Other markets for which specific variants are made include Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and the UK.
This Aurora unit features the highest rated maximum AC output power of 4,200W, and is capable of accommodating an input range of 140-530VDC. The wide input voltage range makes the inverter suitable for low-power installations with reduced string size. An RS-485 interface is provided for communication purposes.
These factors combine with the atypical transformerless design and resulting high efficiency to allow the product to command a modest premium over similar products. This unit's price, therefore, ranges from $2,100 to $2,600.
The Uno family's dual input section allows it to process two strings with independent maximum power-point trackers (MPPTs). These are especially useful for rooftop installations with two different orientations (east and west, for example). The high-speed MPPT offers real-time power tracking and improved energy harvesting.
- Specific grid codes, which can be selected in the field;
- flat efficiency curves to ensure high efficiency at all output levels for consistent and stable performance across the entire input voltage and output power range;
- outdoor enclosure for unrestricted use under any environmental conditions;
- integrated DC disconnect switch;
- compatibility for wireless communication with Aurora PVI-DESKTOP, enabling remote monitoring and control.
One other interesting aspect of the device, and possibly another reflection of its complexity, is that the Uno is one of the few devices recently featured in this teardown feature to be manufactured outside of Asia.