Sunways talks new PV inverter products, manufacturing plans, and strategic direction

In the following interview, pv magazine’s China correspondent Vincent Shaw talks to Li Kui, Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing at Sunways about the PV inverter products it will unveil at this year’s Intersolar Europe, inverter trends, and the plans it has for 2022.

October 5, 2021

pv magazine: What new PV products or solutions will Sunways unveil at Intersolar Europe 2021?

Li Kui, Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Sunways: This year, we will present large current inverters and storage inverters for large power output PV modules like the 182 mm and 210 mm products. Sunways is now the first company to successfully lift the current of residential inverters to 15 A which can better fit large-size panels on residential rooftops. Meanwhile, our storage products, including the single-phase inverters in our STH series (ranging from 3 to 8 kW) and three-phase inverters (ranging from 4 to 33 kW) are the only storage inverters using string technology and which possess a large power output.

To meet the complicated grid requirements from different countries, our products have been designed with a series of industry-leading features to maximize performance redundancy. For example, our inverters provide a maximum of two times AC overloading ability, 0~110% phase unbalanced output, seamless on and off grid switchover, and are also supportive of multiple inverters paralleling connection on the back-up side. All these features integrated in our hybrid inverters makes our products highly adaptable.

What distinguishes Sunways’ products from its competitors?

One of our advantages is that we react quickly to new technologies and new scenarios. For example, along with the development of 182 mm and 210 mm sized PV panels, our new products were quickly developed for higher currents and larger power. We also take efficiency and reliability – two most important characteristics of PV inverters for both PV and storage – very seriously. The temperature control of Sunways’ products is good – usually 5 to 10 degrees centigrade lower than our competitors – which ensures our inverters are both high efficiency and operate reliably. We further provide cloud-based monitoring platforms for our customers’ daily O&M needs, if required.

Which overseas markets are you targeting? What are the strategic goals for Sunways in 2022?

Currently, Europe, China, Latin America, Australia, and India are our target markets. Particularly the European and Australian markets are core for our storage inverters. In the future, Sunways will also develop new products for the U.S. market. We currently serve markets in over 50 countries and this figure continues to grow. Our shipment to the European market accounts for over 50% of our total output. Next May, a new production base located in China’s Cixi City, Zhejiang Province will be finished and production will commence. Here, we plan for at least 5 GW of PV inverter capacity which will help Sunways serve more customers globally.

How do you see PV inverter trends evolving?

String inverters are starting to take the place of centralized inverters and will eventually dominate the market, due to their advantages, which include being lightweight, and easy to install and maintain. With increasingly different types of energies and power loads, power grids are confronted with more challenges regarding safety, stability, and reliability.

As the brain of a solar PV system, hybrid inverters connect PV arrays, batteries, power loads, meters, and the utility grid, and control the energy flows, which can optimize system operations and solve instability problems associated with PV generation. They will also help lower system levelized costs of electricity (LCOEs) and eventually push smart home development.

Different solar plants require different types of PV inverters. What products does Sunways offer?

Sunways has developed a series of products with intelligent monitoring via operations and maintenance (O&M), covering PV inverter and storage inverter products that are focused on the distributed PV sector. For example, we have the STS series of residential PV inverters ranging from 1 to 11 kW. For small Commercial & Industrial (C&I) projects, we offer inverter products with power ranging from 4 to 25 kW, and for larger C&I projects and for the utility-scale sector, we offer the STT series of inverters, ranging from 50 to 125 kW. We also provide storage inverters (via the STH series) ranging from 3 to 8 kW, single-phase high voltage inverters for residential PV projects (4 to 33 kW), and three-phase high voltage products for business customers.

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We plan to develop 1500 V inverters for the distributed smart micro-grid sector soon, based on our optimistic view of this market in the coming decades.

Before its merger with China-based Shunfeng Clean Energy, Sunways was a European solar company, listed on the Frankfurt Stock Market. How did this merger come about and how does the company work with Shunfeng’s other subsidiaries, like Suntech and Meteocontrol?

Sunways was established in 1993 in Konstanz, Germany, and focused its business on the manufacture of PV components, including solar cells, PV panels, and inverters. Affected by the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties applied in 2012, Sunways experienced difficulties and was eventually acquired by Shunfeng Clean Energy in 2014. Since then, we have established a professional and experienced workforce at Sunways, partially based on its original German team and with professionals who transferred from PV module manufacturer Suntech. Meteocontrol further helps provide the highest level of meteorological support for our products, upon the customer’s request.

By 2018, Sunways achieved its vision: “Energy Connects All”. Our products and services now cover PV inverters, storage inverters, smart meters, PV monitoring and O&M equipment, among others.

Relocating your manufacturing, marketing, and R&D operations to China provided Sunways with a cost advantage. How did you manage to maintain the German “gene” in terms of product standards and quality?

When we talk about “Made in Germany”, the first impression is safety, reliability, and excellent quality. Sunways has tried very hard to maintain these qualities. Firstly, all our products are designed using German technologies and professionals. With the right integration of hardware and software, our inverter products are stable and achieve high conversion rates.

Secondly, we implement strict product standards and tests throughout the entire manufacturing process. This not only ensures our products and solutions are of high quality, but that they also meet all environmental requirements. Meanwhile, we imported and deployed Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) in our production which has helped to improve both yield and quality.

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