|Power-One SpA is the second biggest provider of solar inverters in the world as well as being one of the world’s ten main providers of power conversion and power management. Diane Mannion talks to the Commercial Director of the company’s Italian division, Mr Averaldo Farri, to find out more.||
The origins of the Italian division of Power-One go back to 1970. At that time the company was part of Plessey plc, the British based Electronics Company. Since then the company, known today as Power-One Italy, SpA, has undergone many transitions and is now a world renowned producer of renewable energy solutions and power solutions.
Initially the company, as part of Plessey plc, began as a manufacturer of television components. Eventually, because of the company’s knowledge of electro magnetism it evolved into a producer of switch mode power supplies, which were marketed worldwide to a variety of major companies. These included IBM, Hewlett Packard, Nokia and Motorola amongst other big names.
In 1991 Plessey sold the division to an American company, Magnetek Inc, and the division continued to sell power supplies under the Magnetek banner. During that time the company also diversified into production of the electronic ballast, used to power up energy saving lamps. There was further diversification in 2002/3 with the manufacture of renewable power inverters in a bid to stave off competition from Chinese companies.
The next major change came in 2006 when Magnetek was forced to sell the division due to financial commitments relating to pension funds. Since that time the company has been a part of Power-One, another American company, which bought the Italian division for $92 million. This was a shrewd investment by Power-One as they also acquired the technology involved in the production of photovoltaic and wind inverters.
Nowadays, the company is going from strength to strength. Power-One achieved a total turnover in 2010 of $1.05 billion (€770 million). The Italian division accounted for over 70% of this figure with a turnover of €585 million. Expansion is also rapid. The financial results for the second quarter of 2011 show a growth in revenue of 21% to $260 million dollars (€191 million), and the net income attributable to shareholders for the second quarter was $31 million (€23 million) compared to $24 million (€17.5 million) for the same period in 2010.
This rapid expansion is mainly through the increased demand for renewable solutions for the period from 2009 to 2011, and Power-One have done very well in that arena. The technology that started in Italy is now being used by the company in Arizona and China.
Mr Farri attributes the company’s success to their breakthrough solutions in solar inverters. He gives the reasons why these products are so successful by saying that this is due to:
“…the overall design of our inverters, not just aesthetically but technically they are the most advanced inverters in the world.
Mr Farri then expands on the reasons for such a bold statement, which are:
“Firstly, we were the first in the world to introduce the three phase string inverters in 2009, and these are what made our name. Secondly, we were amongst the first companies to produce Dual MPPT inverters. These facilitate the work of the installer a great deal. Thirdly, is the voltaic range. Our inverters accept a voltaic range so large that they can work in conjunction with any solar module that exists in the market.”
Power-One, Italy sells to well over 1000 companies throughout Europe. Its customers are a mix of utility companies, photovoltaic installers and manufacturers. Renewable energy solutions represent the main thrust of the business and the highest selling products are the three phase string inverters in four sizes closely followed by central inverters, which are used for multi-megawatt installations on the ground.
Power-One Italy is currently developing a further inverter product range, called the ultra series. This is a type of central inverter, which handles up to 104 megawatts of power. It is the first in the world to reach that kind of power in a single inverter and is expected to be on the market at the end of the year.
Other plans that the company has for the future relate to solar storage and the release of solar energy on demand. Mr Farri explains:
“We will need to break into new markets in the next couple of years relating to the conservation of energy produced by photovoltaic inverters. We need to learn to store the energy collected from the sun. Secondly, if we learn to store solar energy efficiently we will then need to learn how to release it on demand. This will be the next big breakthrough for this industry.”
Currently solar energy is either used straightaway or lost, which is the biggest limitation with this type of renewable energy. Mr Farri said that Power-One have already started carrying out the research into solar storage and on demand availability as the present system is not suitable. He elucidates:
“The only technology available today for storage of solar energy is through batteries, which pollute the environment. It is an oxymoron that we produce green energy then pollute the world by using batteries, therefore batteries aren’t doing the world any favours.”
Mr Farri anticipates that Power-One is only two to three years away from finding a solution to this problem.
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