Solar power isn’t all about the panel. Inverters, the electronic devices that regulate the flow of power from solar panels to the electrical grid, are also gaining interest from investors. Among them is Apollo Solar, a Bethel, Conn.-based manufacturer of electronics for renewable energy devices, which said today it has raised $4.5 million in a private offering.
The funding will be used to expand manufacturing and marketing for its inverters, charge controllers and display devices for solar arrays. Apollo didn’t disclose which investors participated in the offering, but we’ve got a call in to the company and will update when we find out more.
Distributed solar energy could be a significant energy resource as new power-generating technologies hit the market and prices drop. But connecting those resources to the grid in a way that helps utilities make use of them requires better, smarter components. That means inverters and the other electronic components that tie solar panels into our electrical wires and networks are gaining importance and investor interest.
The Department of Energy has dedicated $24 million to its Solar Energy Grid Integration Program (SEGIS), which aims to develop low-cost “balance of system” technologies, increase energy harvest from solar panel systems, improve system reliability and ultimately enable greater grid penetration of distributed solar energy resources.
In a first round of funding totaling $2.9 million announced in August, DOE selected 12 vendors, including Apollo Solar, for cost-sharing partnerships aimed at market analysis and component design. Apollo received support to develop components for residential-size solar electric systems “able to communicate with utility energy portals to implement the seamless two-way power flows of the future,” according to a DOE release.
Other participants, including EnPhase, PVPowered, SmartSpark, GE and Premium Power, are tasked with developing components for other smart-grid-plus-solar technologies — including back-up power systems, plug-in hybrids and traditional building energy management systems. Meanwhile, Xantrex Technology, another company in the inverter space, was acquired in late September for $500 million by French company Schneider Electric. Apollo’s announcement today seems like just the start of what is likely to be a much longer line of investments ahead.