We like the microinverter for residential solar panel systems and we respect Enphase’s market leadership. Just as the elevator was synonymous with the lift and Xerox was synonymous with photocopiers, Enphase has become synonymous with microinverters. Most of the residential installations of solar panels we see are with microinverters. As Enphase has extended its warranty, the microinverter has become an integral part of home solar panel systems. All of that is well and good, but we are wondering if Enphase is innovating into obsolescence by treating its microinverters as electronics, fundamentally changing its product every few months.
Enphase has received substantial market traction by bringing to market before its competitors the microinverter product, which competes favorably against other solar inverters. Microinverters solve a lot of problems, particularly shading on the solar panel system that can reduce output significantly with a passing cloud.
But in Enphase’s rush to innovate better products, with every new generation of microinverter that Enphase releases, it renders its older products obsolete. Now how is that supposed to work when you are supposed to have the Enphase microinverter on your home for ten or twenty years? Anybody ever hear about spare parts?
It reminds me of the old Soviet system, where you would buy two of everything, one to use, and one for the spare parts. Where the rubber hits the road for us is that with every introduction of a new product, we get calls from installers looking for parts for the last generation of products. This week, we were canvassing all of our distributors to try to find one part for the D380 microinverter. And not surprisingly, we have been having a very difficult time.
This is just a sample of one of the responses we received: “Unfortunately [SolarTown’s customer] will not be able to use the 3 phase cable (360-0161) in a 240VAC system, as the internal conductors will not be rated for use on a 240VAC. If we do not have stock left on the correct cable, he may have to try to find them elsewhere. Since the D380s have been discontinued, I would try to push everyone to M215.”
And try finding any spare parts for anyone who purchased the M190 or M210. You can just foget about it. We like the Enphase microinverter, but wish that they would spend less time on innovation and more time on improving its current products.