Smart modules are a type of solar panel that has a power optimizer embedded into the solar module at the time of manufacturing. Typically the power optimizer is embedded in the junction box of the solar module. Power optimizers attached to the frame of a solar module, or connected to the photovoltaic circuit through a connector, are not properly considered smart modules.
Smart modules are different from traditional solar panels because the power electronics embedded in the module offers enhanced functionality such as panel-level maximum power point tracking, monitoring, and enhanced safety.
Solar panel installers saw significant growth between 2008 and 2013. Due to that growth many installers had projects that were not "ideal" solar roof tops to work with and had to find solutions to shaded roofs and orientation difficulties. This challenge was initially addressed by the re-popularization of micro-inverters and later the invention of power optimizers.
Solar panel manufacturers partnered with micro-inverter companies to create AC modules and power optimizer companies partnered with module manufacturers to create smart modules. In 2013 many solar panel manufacturers announced and began shipping their smart module solutions.
It is estimated that smart module shipments will grow rapidly with some manufacturers expecting smart modules will account for 30% of their shipments.
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