February 08, 2007

Renewable Energy Inverter Market Booms
The green tech boom is proving a boon for those renewable energy companies that slogged their way through the dirt-cheap oil years of the 1990s, back when wind turbines were about as popular as the Yugo. Take Xantrex, a Canadian company that makes power inverters used in solar energy systems and wind farms. The non-descript boxes (photo below) play a key role in making renewable energy usable, transforming the direct current produced by solar panels and wind turbines into alternating current that can be used in homes and by the power grid. In August, Xantrex began supplying inverters to Silicon Valley Xantrex_solar_inverter solar cell maker SunPower (SPWR). The Burnaby, British Columbia-based company's inverter sales shot up 91 percent in the third quarter of 2006 compared to the previous year. The company, which has annual revenue of about $C145 million ($US 122 million), has installed inverters in solar power systems generating a total of 100 megawatts of energy. "It’s really gone from a small, fragmented - almost a hobby business - to a business with large and demanding customers, " says Xantrex marketing executive Doug May, a tech industry veteran. "It reminds me of the PC market 20 years ago. There's a lot of good players, a lot of good technology. I think the business model hasn’t shaken out yet."