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on the market for backwards lamp dimmers
28 oct 2000
jade mountain ( is now selling 1 kva trace sun tie
inverters for $1700, 1.5 for $2k, 2 for $2.1k, and 2.5 kva for $2.5k,
with no pv panels. has anyone taken one apart? i'm still convinced that
something like this can be made with about $25-50 worth of parts...

i've been talking with a serious lamp-dimmer engineer, who replied: 

>...we did some additional checking and have concluded that this market
>would not be a good match for our goals and capabilities. it appears that
>eventually the majority of the inverter market will be driven toward
>supplying alternative energy system oems that do not have an in-house
>inverter design capability, which is well outside our company's areas
>of interest, due to the low margins that inevitably result from that type
>of market.

low margins because of the marketing structure, vs a difficult technical
job to do. it does seem that ae inverter companies may be consolidating,
with trace and exeltech as the main remaining players.

>the medium to long term potential for very simple "backward-lamp-dimmer"
>type inverters appears to be quite limited, due to continually advancing
>pressure from utilities to minimize the thd of grid-connected equipment as
>they strive to squeeze every possible bit of capacity out of the existing
>distribution infrastructure.

i suppose this would eventually include both power sources and sinks, and
that minimizing thds increases the effective grid capacity. can someone
convince a puc that sources should have no more stringent restrictions
than sinks? would their response be to tighten thd restrictions on sinks?
("god, please make my one hand like my other hand..." :-)

>while there may be a limited duration window of opportunity over the next
>few years...

a good temporary market? continuing would require distortion improvements. 
>...we don't see a compelling long-term market in this type of gear, and
>competition strictly on the basis of low price is not our corporate forte.
>another contributing factor to our reluctance to enter a completely new
>marketplace stems from the fact that we have more than enough opportunities
>in our core areas of competence to keep us busy for the forseeable future.

>however, we certainly appreciate your thinking of us in this regard. the
>alternative energy marketplace, although still in its infancy, certainly
>sounds like a dynamic one and i am sure there are plenty of opportunities
>for organizations who are in a better position than us to prosper from its
>growth. perhaps some future developments either here at our company or in
>the market itself will cause us to take another look at entering this
>market, but for the moment, we do not feel it is in our interests to do so.

>in any case, it was good to hear from you again, nick, and we certainly 
>want to wish you good luck in your future endeavors...


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