Smart Modules: The Next Generation of Solar
As the price of PV continues to drop, solar energy becomes an attainable reality for more and
more homeowners, businesses and investors. However, despite compelling economics, some
potential buyers are ineligible for solar due to insufficient space or too much shading. Enter
smart modules: featuring embedded intelligence, these modules increase system flexibility, so
buildings once considered inhospitable to solar can now accommodate a high-performing
system. Smart modules also raise performance, increase monitoring capabilities and reduce
safety risks. In short, smart modules are proving to be the next generation of solar.
Traditional solar electric systems feature multiple PV modules connected to a central inverter.
These modules are connected in series circuits, meaning the system will instinctively lower its
output level to that of the worst performing module.
Smart modules integrate high performance monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells with intelli-
gent technologies such as the current-bypass technology of power optimizers. With this addi-
tional layer of power electronics in place, smart modules enable the design of systems in
configurations not previously possible—multiple module tilts, various orientations, etc.— elimi-
nating the negative effects of shading. Additionally, because the module and smart technolo-
gies are shipped as one unit, installers benefit from shorter installation times.
Smart modules are rapidly building momentum in the solar industry today, offered through
some of the top technology providers. In fact, Upsolar recently introduced a smart module certi-
fied for use in the EU, North America and Australia. Utilizing Tigo Energy’s power optimizers,
these smart modules offer up to 25 percent more power density and improved part counts, in
addition to enhanced performance, flexibility, monitoring and safety.
Power-optimizers, such as Tigo Energy’s Smart Module technology, work in tandem with a
central inverter to increase output through maximum power point tracking (MPPT). This allows
each module to achieve higher yield.
Introducing Smart Modules
• Ideal for commercial and utility scale projects • Module-level MPPT & monitoring
• Up to 25% more power density/eﬃciency • Reduced O&M and commissioning costs
• Arc, fire and safety hazard mitigation • High quality bill of materials
• Up to 30% longer strings • Performance stability without PID losses
• Lower BOS and labor costs • Design flexibility
• Increased energy harvest & system uptime • High eﬃciency mono/polycrystalline
for proven ROI cell technology
Upsolar Module TigoEnergy
(mono- orpolycrystalline) SmartModuleTechnology
When the average person thinks of a solar electric system, they likely envision a series of panels
up on the roof converting sunlight into useable energy. How the system works—and how well
it’s working—is largely a mystery. Most system owners and operators have limited visibility into
performance, and almost zero ability to interact with their PV technology. For operators over-
seeing hundreds of systems, this means any performance issue requires the organization to
bring an expert on-site for a preliminary examination, and then schedule a second visit to prop-
erly address the problem at hand.
Each smart module is equipped with real-time monitoring capabilities, allowing installers and
system owners alike to access and analyze performance data through intuitive software. In the
case of Upsolar’s smart modules, system owners and operators benefit fromTigo Energy’s intelli-
gence, which enables them to pinpoint and correct issues before they become major problems
down the road. Even homeowners or operators away on vacation can easily monitor a system
via a mobile app. With these modules, the moment a project goes online, operators and owners
can walk away from the installation with confidence that their system is either performing at its
full potential, or offering an immediate alert to performance issues.
Anatomy of a Smart Module
Upsolar Modules paired withTigo Energy’s Smart ModuleTechnology delivers more energy, active
management and enhanced safety features through state-of-the-art module-embedded power
electronics combined with advanced cloud-based software.
Tigo Energy recently introduced its Smart Curve technology. This feature enables a
module manufacturer to program the max voltage of a solar panel. The result – lower
open circuit voltages and no coefficient of temperature which enables longer strings, as
more modules can fit within max safety voltages. With longer strings, the electrical balance
of systems can be reduced, requiring fewer combiner boxes, fuses, and home run wiring.
Overall, this reduces electrical balance of systems costs by approximately 30%. Addition-
ally, with fewer conductors, the system wire losses are reduced by approximately 0.4%.
Finally, this design raises the average string voltage, giving inverter designers more
options to reduce cost and increase efficiency.
New developments in smart module technology:
Tigo Energy's Smart Curve
Tigo Energy’s monitoring software gives system owners visibility into the performance of their modules. System
analytics track production, send alerts and proactively suggest maintenance to keep systems operating at maxi-
mum efficiency and uptime.
& Vmp/Voc Gap
In 2012, Upsolar and Tigo Energy partnered to develop the largest smart solar array in North
America. Located in Sharon, Vermont, the project utilizes 9,562 Upsolar modules equipped with
Tigo Energy optimizers.
Sharon is home to beautiful, rolling agricultural hills. Understandably, the project site owners
and neighbors required that any PV system design preserve the natural look of the area with
minimal land impact. Ordinarily, this would present a nightmarish task for the EPC team, who
would face either a massive structural challenge or a lost customer. Instead, the smart modules
allowed a design that flowed with the contours of the land.
It’s no secret that the global solar industry has faced a number of growing pains in recent years,
including fiscal and political turmoil, shifting incentives and price competition from utilities.
Today, smart modules are oﬀering an opportunity for project developers worldwide to combat
design challenges and ease consumer uncertainty. Smart modules are driving stakeholders
toward a more dynamic and intuitive solar experience—bringing clarity instead of confusion,
and enabling high-yield projects on rooftops that previously would have gone undeveloped.
Smart modules are a natural fit to ease the evolving challenges of a maturing industry, and the
ideal solution to spur the next wave of significant market growth.
Smart Modules in Action: The Rolling Hills of Vermont
Smarter Solar, Now and in the Future
Upsolar Global Co., Ltd. | T: +86 (0) 21 6277 5477 | F: +86 (0) 21 6277 5664 | www.upsolar.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Upsolar and Tigo Energy utilized smart modules to develop a high-performing array in Sharon, Vermont.