enphase.JPGAnother company has emerged claiming it has a better way to tracking and manage the power that solar cells produce, just a few days after we reported the investment received by competing measurement company Fat Spaniel.

Better measurement tools are crucial to the emerging solar industry, which is struggling to become more efficient, so that it is cost-competitive with other sources of energy. Again, the high-tech companies of Silicon Valley are kicking in to push this sector forward. Both Enphase and Fat Spaniel are based in the SF Bay Area.

Enphase Energy, of Petaluma, Calif, says it has invented a micro-inverter that can be directly attached to individual cells in a solar array. Solar cells produce direct current electricity, which must be converted into alternating current before it can be fed into the electricity grid — a process that loses some of the energy produced.

Larger, centralized inverters handle the process, and provide the data for companies like Fat Spaniel to do their measurements. By attaching a miniature version to individual cells, Enphase says it can boost efficiency and provide highly specific measurement and performance analytics for solar arrays.

For the moment, it’s hard to say exactly how large a competitive advantage this gives Enphase. The company isn’t releasing any information about pricing or efficiency gains, although a representative told us that it has some very satisfied beta-testing partners.

However, a micro-inverter that is both highly efficient and cheap could potentially disrupt the business model of other companies, both those that manufacture conversion systems for solar installations and measurement firms that track the performance of arrays. Enphase will make its product announcements in the second quarter of this year.

The company took $6.5 million in the latest round of funding, provided by Third Point Ventures and an unnamed large, publicly-traded technology company. Enphase earlier $6.5 million in its first round from undisclosed investors, making for a total of $13 million.