Founded in 1985, Bentek is a leader in manufacturing and engineering solutions for complex electro-mechanical and power distribution systems for the semiconductor and solar industries. Bentek has applied these extensive capabilities and knowledge into a comprehensive family of standard and configure-to-order (CTO) solar combiner products. These solar combiners provide quality, ease of installation and safety to the solar industry. Here President and CEO Mitch Schoch explains why Bentek Solar is an innovative leader in the solar industry.

Solar Power Combiners

Mitch Schoch | Bentek Solar

Mitch, we see that solar power combiners are a specialty of Bentek Solar. Can you describe how these work and why they are important to the solar/photovoltaic industries?
Solar combiners aggregate the DC voltage from PV panels and then funnel it into inverters to convert it to AC power for use. Thus, the combiner is a key link in the chain of converting sunlight to useable electricity in PV arrays. Combiners also are increasingly important in monitoring system activity and performance to optimize system yields.

Are there different types of combiners for different applications?
Yes, there are a range of combiners with various functions that are designed to meet varying voltage, safety and information requirements for the system design. The size of the PV installation and the varying output of PV panels can significantly affect the number and capacity of the combiners needed. In larger installations, one or more levels of combiners may be required to concentrate voltage before it is fed to the inverter. We offer combiners to meet a broad range of voltage requirements, circuits, sensing and disconnect capabilities to address these needs.

You mention that the solar combiners provide quality, ease of installation and safety to the solar industry. What other advantages do they deliver?
We are able to provide a wide range of performance capabilities and to tailor our combiners to meet the specific needs of our customers’ designs, which can vary significantly. The ability to monitor current and other measures of the installation provides feedback on the performance of the system and allows users to tune their systems for optimal performance and maximum value.

We understand that Bentek Solar recently received UL 1741 certification for the string combiners. Why is this advantageous? What benefit does it provide your customers?
UL1741 provides a level of approved testing and safety to these newly developed industry standards. It ensures our customers that our designs have met these requirements and will perform safely to specifications. UL1741 approval certifies that the combiner has successfully met the latest requirements for solar products as determined by Underwriters Laboratories through as series of tests. Users are increasingly aware of the need for such certification to ensure the safety of their installations and to meet increasing insurance requirements. UL and other national certifications can be achieved by submitting product to approved private laboratories. The certification process can take several weeks or even months depending on the complexity of the device and the outcome of test results. UL approval is rapidly becoming a requirement for all PV products in the marketplace.

Are there specific markets within the solar industry that Bentek Solar plans to target? Why these particular markets?
We will continue to design and develop our products to meet the requirements and needs of our customers. In particular, our designs are oriented to the needs of large commercial, industrial and utility markets. These markets often have complex and unique needs, given the size and scale of the projects. Bentek engineering and manufacturing is well suited to providing products to meet their needs.

What advantages does Bentek Solar offer over its competitors?
We believe our years of experience with the design and engineering of complex power systems for a range of industries positions us to provide excellent solutions in a very timely manner. Further, our relationship with key component suppliers and our manufacturing experience allow us to respond to short lead times and systems changes as required. Configure-To-Order (CTO) that exceeds customers’ special needs and requirements also gives Bentek Solar an advantage in the solar marketplace.

How does a client determine if a combiner is required for his project?
In any project above small residential in which there are more than one string of solar panels, one or more combiners will probably be needed to collect the current before it is sent to the inverter. Some inverters also contain combiners inside them; however, this is increasingly impractical for larger solar arrays or where there are variations in panel configurations.

Are there other applications where combiners are beneficial ― wind projects for example?
Combiners also can be employed in other types of renewable energy projects. Their capabilities may need to be adapted to the unique current outputs of the devices and design of the larger system.

Is the solar industry growing at a rapid, average or stagnant rate at this time? In your opinion, why is this the case? Where will the solar industry be in five years?
The projections for the solar industry in the Americas are for growth above 50 percent for the next three to five years. There is an enormous amount of public and private interest and investment in developing sustainable alternative sources of energy here and around the world. Today we are only at the early stages of developing cost-effective renewable sources of energy. As the costs of PV power generation approach cost parity with today’s fossil fuels, the demand for these technologies will increase. Today, PV solar provides only 1-2 percent of total power demand here in the United States. There is enormous potential for growth in the next five years if we are able to achieve the goals being legislated in states and localities across the nation.

Will Bentek Solar introduce any new technologies during the remainder of the year?
We have several new products and features in design now and expect to be making announcements in the coming months.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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