ThePulse360: Insights into Solar Combiner Equipment Searches
Searches for photovoltaic/solar combiners are down overall by 70% on Engineering360 since 2018. We see the biggest drop in searches from those in the Oil and Gas industries, as well as in the utilities sector. Despite the trend, searches from those in the fabricated metals sector are up 100%.
Solar combiners bring together the output of several solar strings. In this way, they provide a cumulative voltage both from PV panels and PV panel strings, before routing the power to a separate controller or inverter. Off-grid and large grid-tied systems benefit from the overcurrent protection these combiners provide.
Solar combiners can be a good indicator of the large-scale adoption of solar technology because they are a key component of a PV system. Solar installations are up, especially in residential and commercial applications, and also among utility-scale power providers. Site-specific industrial applications, by contrast, may still find it difficult to adopt solar energy due to their high energy demand and need for a consistent power supply that is not subject to the kind of wide intermittency characteristic of solar PV.
Because residential and commercial users typically buy their electricity from the local utility, they are not directly affected by the price of coal and natural gas, which are the primary fuels for fossil-generated electricity. They are, instead, motivated by public policy incentives, long-term price guarantees and social goals such as carbon footprint reduction, etc. And utilities, which are big solar adopters, are combining solar PV with battery energy storage, which is increasingly cost-competitive and reliable. What’s more, the Department of Energy’s SunShot program has done a lot to bring down the cost of solar PV, and suppliers, many of them based in China, have commoditized the technology so that it is quite cost-competitive compared with a decade ago.
Although the industrial sector is not a major adopter of solar PV, industries that buy electricity from the grid are likely consuming renewable energy of some sort, given the widespread growth of wind and solar installations in recent years.