Sparq: Enphase’s smarter (cheaper) cousin

Well, we cannot downplay the tremendous success of ‘big cousin’, Enphase (ENPH), the current global leader in the microinverter sector. Enphase single handedly put microinverters on the map and their marketing has been brilliant. However, traditional microinverters, like Enphase’s, face a few major challenges — lifespan, cost, and their current inability to meet advanced grid requirements.

Electrolytic capacitors used in the majority of microinverters are well-known to have a lifespan (7–10 years) — much shorter than the rooftop solar modules (25+ years). This is less of a problem for centralized string inverters, as an installer can make a simple visit to a single mounted unit on the side of the home when it fails. However, with microinverters, the installer will need to make multiple trips to the rooftop, a much more costly proposition, which can kill the economic benefits (Enphase’s warranty cost allocations have increased in recent SEC reporting). The other challenge is that at their current price point (almost 2x the price of string inverters on a per watt basis), many of the largest residential solar leasing companies (SolarCity, SunRun, OneRoof), which dominate the market, have been reluctant to adopt microinverters.

SPARQ solves all three issues. As a starting point, SPARQ uses film capacitors, which are more reliable and match the lifespan of the rooftop solar modules (25+ years). However, the true genius of SPARQ’s broadly patented technology is its advanced software core that is able to take multiple DC inputs to a single AC output, with minimal component counts, while still optimizing the power output of each individual panel (maximum power point tracking). The net result is a radically lower cost inverter (equal to string inverter pricing) with a long lifespan and higher real energy output. On top of all this, SPARQ’s microinverter is the first in the world to support advanced grid requirements (e.g. reactive power, VAR compensation). These are recent requirements in Germany and Italy (and pending in the USA), where Enphase has been ‘locked’ out of the market.

SPARQ is truly a smarter (cheaper) inverter design. SPARQ’s technology is the result of research by Dr. Praveen Jain and his research team at Queens University in Canada that began in the ’80s. Dr. Praveen is globally respected as a leader in power electronics and a renowned Canada Research Chair.

We love the solar market, particularly the small distributed solar market. We believe we are at the start of a long bull market for solar and the major investment banks agree. As solar costs continue to fall, more countries/regions will reach grid parity, moving beyond the need for subsidies or tax breaks. Mainstream solar is here to stay. Murray McCaig sits on the board.

Originally posted Jan 22, 2014 on the ArcternVentures.com