A system and method are provided for enabling a PV inverter to be connected to a string of series connected PV modules without exposing the inverter to elevated voltage stresses. The input voltage to the inverter is gradually built up by sequentially switching in more series PV modules. This system and method are simple to implement in both centralized and distributed PV power plants and in either case, it significantly increases the utilization of the PV inverter. The input switching elements can be implemented using a wide variety of parts including electro-mechanical switches, semiconductor switches (IGBTs, MOSFETs . . . , etc.) as well as MEMS devices depending on the current level and target cost. A mix of switches can also be used to assist in minimizing impedance of the final switching stage that remains connected during normal operation.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
 This invention was made with U.S. Department of Energy support under contract number DE-EE0000572. The Government has certain rights in the invention.