Who are they?
FIMER are a lot like Fronius – they started decades ago (1942) making welding equipment, and have since expanded into the energy industry – specifically, battery charging and solar inverters. They’re even neighbours, with Fronius in Austria and FIMER in northern Italy. However, until recently, FIMER only made large industrial-/utilities-level (primarily central) inverters – devices in the hundreds or thousands of kVA, not the 5~10kVA systems your average house needs.
However, this changed in 2020, with FIMER’s acquisition of ABB’s solar inverter division.
ABB is a Swiss-Swedish company, with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. It originated as two companies – one formed in 1883 (Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget [ASEA], by Ludvig Fredholm – the Swedish company), and the other formed in 1891 (Brown, Boveri & Cie, by Charles Eugene Lancelot Brown and Walter Boveri – the Swiss company). These merged in 1987 to make ABB – yes, it stands for ASEA Brown Boveri. ABB, a Fortune Global 500 company, makes a huge range of electrical and electronic goods – from motors to circuit breakers to robots to PLCs.
Going back further, ABB got into the solar inverter market in 2004 by acquiring Power-One. Power-One was an Italian company, formed in 1973, who was seen as making some of the best inverters available at the time. Regardless of parent company, the inverters have always been made in Italy – not China.
FIMER have taken over ABB’s entire business unit, meaning nothing really changes – the inverters are currently being made by the same people in the same factories. For the foreseeable future they will even be branded ABB.
ABB has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth, although the latest information I can find suggests FIMER only has a since NSW-based office – although this means they still have an Australian phone number you can call for assistance, which is the most important thing!
What do they do?
FIMER (ABB) make a huge range of inverters, for every situation. Their smallest in their inverter range is a 1.2kW single phase string inverter, suitable for only 4~5 solar panels! Yet they also go up to solar-farm/industrial levels – their largest is a central inverter that allows up to ~5MW, which is 15~18,000 solar panels!!
At GI Energy, we primarily use their commercial inverters; that is, three-phase, from 20 to 100kW (specifically, 20kW, 27.6kW, 50kW and 100kW). Compared with Fronius, they offer greater flexibility than the Fronius Ecos (2~6 MPPTs, compared to the Eco’s 1), and lower prices than the Fronius Symos. Furthermore, currently Fronius’ largest inverter is the Eco 27kW, so, for a 100kW system, you would need three Eco 27s, where alternately you could use a single ABB 100 (or two 50s linked together). Fronius plan to release a 50kW and 100kW inverter in 2020, but even so they’ll only have a single MPPT, compared with the ABB 100s six – meaning a lot fewer options when it comes to panel and string design.
We also use them for smaller residential jobs, especially the ABB UNO DM (available in 1.2kW, 2kW, 3.0kW, 3.3kW, 4kW, 4.6kW, 5kW, and 6kW). They’re a bit cheaper than the Fronius, but more expensive than the Sungrow.
SMA have recently been boasting about their ShadeFix technology, which finds the absolute maximum power point. A system may have multiple relative maximums, but it will only have a single absolute maximum – the maximum maximum, which is the one you want. Cheaper inverters will be happy to find a relative one, and stop looking after that. Fronius also have the technology to find the absolutely maximum, which they call Superflex. What most people don’t know is that ABB have had this technology since 2011!
As with other inverters, FIMER have Wi-Fi monitoring built in to their inverters, which connects to an online platform – in this case called Aurora Vision. This can be combined with an energy meter to monitor real-time consumption on top of the production, both from a computer or a device via an app. This is something FIMER are actively working on – they’ve recently released a new smart meter with added functions, and they have plans to redesign their app in the near future.
Interestingly, ABB also have weather stations and irradiance sensors that can be connected to Aurora Vision to compare the definite output with that predicted based on the actual weather conditions. Many monitoring solutions, including Solar Analytics, have predicted production based on BOM weather data – but what better than having an actual weather station next to your array! It’s not cheap, but for a big commercial project it’s definitely worth considering.
FIMER inverters currently have a 10-year warranty on all their residential inverters, and five year on their commercial ones. This is noteworthy as most residential inverters only have a 5-year warranty – you have to pay extra if you want a full 10-year cover. And unlike other smaller or younger manufacturers, there’s no doubt FIMER – an almost 80-year-old company – will be unable to honour their warranty.
If big, safe companies are your thing, you can’t go wrong with FIMER. A solid mid-price residential inverter, and a flexible, affordable commercial offering, we expect to be using these inverters for many years to come.