Creator of solar microinverter sees 100 employees in ’09

PETALUMA - Enphase Energy continues to grow despite an economy that has many technology companies struggling.

Buoyed by an infusion of $22.5 million in May of this year from both new and returning venture capital companies, Enphase is adding staff as quickly as it can find qualified workers.

The company grew from 55 employees in May to 70 currently and expects to have a staff of 100 by the end of the year, according to Director of Marketing Leesa Lee.

If Enphase has a challenge, it's that demand for the company's product is outgrowing manufacturing capacity, leading to a scramble to find contract manufacturing partners and ramp up production, she said.

Launched in 2008, Enphase was the first to market with a system that uses high-efficiency microinverters to convert energy from solar panels. The system includes Web-based analytics to maximize energy harvest and simplify design, installation and management of solar projects, increasing energy harvest by 5 percent to 25 percent and reducing labor costs by about 15 percent.

Investors love the technology because energy storage is an expensive and cumbersome component of large solar installations.

So far, Madrone Capital, Bay Partners, Third Point Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners and Applied Ventures LLC have put $53 million into Enphase.

According to Enphase President and CEO Paul Nahi, the company has tens of thousands of units installed in the U.S. and Canada.

The company is planning an aggressive move into the European marketplace in 2010. Although Europeans are fans of solar energy - Germany has the most installations per capita in the world - they lag in microinverter technology.

"The Enphase microinverter is a particularly American phenomenon because the technology has close ties to the communications, semiconductor and software industries," said Mr. Nahi.

The company sells through solar and electrical distributors and directly to solar module makers and installers.

"We've ramped up production to meet demand and have just signed a partnership with one of the largest contract manufacturers in the world - Singapore-based Flextronics," said Ms. Lee.

Enphase has not seen any downturn in demand despite the economy, she said, because the Enphase Microinverter Systems are resonating with solar installers and system owners.

"They like the increased energy harvest, improved reliability and a simpler and safer way to install and manage a solar energy system," she said.

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