Emerging WSN Market Segment

Manufacturer of solar micro inverters and monitoring systems for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, Enecsys Ltd, announced on 3rd October that it had partnered with Ember to bring ZigBee wireless communications to roof-top PV systems. Aimed at helping householders and businesses better monitor and optimize their systems’ performance, the tie up raises the possibility of a potential wireless sensor network (WSN) market deriving from smart energy and marrying itself into the home automation market.

Enecsys has integrated Ember's ZigBee system-on-chip (SoC) and ZigBee PRO software into its SMI series of micro inverters, which convert the DC output of solar panels into AC for connection to the electricity grid. Unlike conventional centralized string inverters, Enecsys' micro inverters connect to each module of a solar PV system, or each pair of modules in the case of the "Duo" product. This approach renders benefits such as delivering better energy harvest, higher reliability, longer life expectancy, and greater solar PV design flexibility. Each Enecsys micro inverter has Ember's ZigBee technology built-in to communicate detailed performance information of each solar module, which string inverters cannot do.

This new beneficial partnership opens up a significant opportunity for a WSN market. The PV market has grown at a staggering rate over the last five years, from under 6GW annually installed in 2005 to almost 20GW annually installed by the end of 2011. Furthermore, PV micro inverters are a shooting ray of light in the PV inverter market and its market penetration of approximately 1% now is anticipated to increase to 8-10% by 2015. This new addressable market for WSN is good news.

With energy mandates driving greater adoption in the PV markets, ABI Research views micro inverter as a key enabler to better efficiency and reliability alongside advances in technology innovation in the realm of PV cells, PV modules and overall system design. WSN integration in micro inverters will enable users to take a more proactive role in managing their energy generation and consumption from their in-home displays, and mobile devices.