If you're familiar with the residential solar market, you're probably aware of the two leading players providing inverters to residential solar installations in the US. But those two companies are far from the only companies providing inverter (and inverter-adjacent) products in the residential solar market in the US.
While their optimizers and rapid shutdown devices have been installed on many roofs throughout the country, one company you may not yet be familiar with is Tigo Energy. However, Tigo Energy is banking on that changing with their latest product launch: the Tigo Energy Intelligence (EI) Residential Solution, which brings Tigo-branded products to the forefront of a solar and solar-plus-storage installation.
Tigo Energy is a 14-year-old company whose optimizers and rapid shutdown devices have been installed with other inverters for many years.
Today, Tigo Energy is launching its Tigo-branded solar and storage solutions: the Tigo EI Residential Solution.
The package includes a new inverter, battery, and automatic transfer switch/communication system.
Compare and shop for the Tigo EI Residential Solution on the EnergySage Marketplace.
Every solar panel system consists of three main parts: the solar panels that capture the sunlight and turn it into electricity, the inverters that turn that direct current electricity into alternating current electricity, and the racking system that mounts the solar panels to your roof. Within those three essential components, there are several subcomponents and systems that you may or may not even realize exist–like roof flashings, end caps, wire management systems, and hundreds to thousands of feet of wiring–and some that you're probably aware of–like the optimizers that are frequently paired with central or string inverters.
Traditionally, Tigo Energy has made its mark in the solar industry: module-level power electronics (MLPE) like optimizers and rapid shutdown devices. The company was founded in 2007 in Silicon Valley with one primary aim: to increase the adoption and performance of solar energy systems.
For many years, Tigo products were installed alongside products from other leading companies in the industry: Tigo Energy made a series of inverter-agnostic MLPE devices. In other words, they made high-performing products that didn't care which brand of inverter you paired them with, a handy resource in an installer's toolbox.
At the commercial level, Tigo has excelled. Since installers can pair Tigo products with any inverter, commercial installers can (and do) optimize their overall project with the help of Tigo products. It’s a little more complicated at the residential level: Tigo’s products were probably most frequently installed with SMA inverters–so much so that SMA was a partial owner of Tigo Energy until the summer of 2020.
Having historically taken a back seat to other companies in the residential solar space, Tigo Energy decided to move out from behind the curtain and offer its own comprehensive set of products. Rather than being the product behind the product, Tigo began to develop and launch its suite of products; instead of being installed as the optimizer behind an SMA inverter, Tigo Energy wanted to offer the other components of a solar panel project from an inverter to a battery and the communication system that ties them all together.
It's easy to see the logic in why Tigo Energy is launching these projects now: the Biden Administration's goal of solar reaching 40 percent of all electricity generation in the country by 2035 will require significant growth across the board, specifically with residential solar installations. And while the solar panel and energy storage markets are reasonably fragmented with ten or more important players in the residential space, the inverter market is much less so: two inverter manufacturers account for 90 percent or more of projects installed in the US.
Some may see this as a barrier to entry; Tigo Energy sees it as an opportunity.
Tigo already provides module-level power electronics, including optimizers and rapid shutdown devices, which provide safety in an emergency. Here's what they're adding to those pre-existing products to round out their offerings for residential solar panel systems:
The Tigo EI Inverter
The Tigo EI Inverter is a hybrid inverter: a grid-tied string inverter capable of seamlessly integrating storage. The EI Inverter is stackable and comes in two separate sizes: a 7.6K and an 11.4K, corresponding to the maximum AC power output from the inverter. So the 7.6K has a max output of 7.6 kilowatts (kW), and the 11.4 has a max output of 11.4 kW. Both can efficiently operate with a solar panel array oversized by 200% in case you want to maximize your solar panel system to charge batteries better.
The inverters have 3 and 4 maximum power point trackers (MPPTs), respectively, and each MPPT can handle two strings of solar panels. The number of MPPTs and strings per MPPTs means that the EI Inverter can take a solar installation on a complex roof or one with different-sized strings of solar panels. The pairing with Tigo optimizers means even roofs with shading at different times of the day are good candidates for solar.
With a weighted efficiency of over 97% and a standard warranty of 12.8 years, the specs of the Tigo EI Inverter are nearly identical to other top string inverters on the market today.
The Tigo EI Battery
The Tigo EI Battery is a new entrant in residential Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries. LFP batteries are known for excellent thermal stability (i.e., safety) and a long cycle life, which is precisely why Tigo Energy chose that chemistry.
Each battery enclosure holds three 3.3 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery modules for 9.9 kWh of stored capacity per enclosure, 9.0 kWh of which is usable. System sizing is pretty flexible with the batteries: today, you can stack two battery enclosures per EI inverter, meaning up to 20 kWh of storage capacity. Shortly, you'll be able to configure up to four batteries on the same Tigo inverter, so you can get just under 40 kWh of storage per inverter–more than enough to power the entirety of an average American house for a whole day. (Until the sun comes back up and recharges it!)
With a roundtrip efficiency (DC to DC) of 94.4% and a max power output of 5 kW, the performance of the EI battery is undoubtedly competitive with other DC-coupled battery products. Where the EI Battery truly excels is in its cycle life and flexibility. The EI Battery boasts a lifecycle of more than 6,000 cycles or more than 16 years of cycling the battery once a day! And due to its design, the EI Battery can be DC-coupled to a new solar-plus-storage array or installed as an AC-coupled add-on to an existing solar panel system.
The battery is two feet wide by four feet tall and sits about a foot from the wall. It's rated to operate in temperatures ranging from frigid (14 degrees Fahrenheit!) to scalding (113°F) and is rated for both indoor and outdoor use. And, at 66 pounds per battery, the system is straightforward and not labor-intensive to install.
Automatic Transfer Switch
In addition to the battery and inverter, Tigo Energy launched its Automatic Transfer Switch or ATS. An ATS is an essential component of a home backup system, ensuring that when the grid goes down, your power supply transfers to your battery fast enough that you don't even notice the power went out. (So quickly that you won't have to reset clocks... if you still have those.)
Some batteries include an ATS internal to the battery electronics, while others (like Tesla) put the ATS in a separate box. That's precisely what Tigo has done. Available in 50A and 200A models, the Tigo ATS is indoor and outdoor rated and can either backup essential loads or provide whole home backup.
To begin with, Tigo Energy is focusing on a limited release of these products with just 6-10 installers through the end of the year. But if you're interested in being the first to find these products in the wild, you can find those installers on EnergySage! Be sure to indicate your preference for Tigo Energy products when you register for a free account on EnergySage, and we'll work to get you quotes with the Tigo EI Residential Solution.