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All you need to know about solar inverters in 2023

Solar inverters are electronic devices that convert the direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into the alternating current (AC) electricity that is used in homes and businesses. Solar inverters are essential components of solar energy systems, as they ensure that the solar energy generated by the panels is usable and compatible with the electricity grid

In this article we will be breaking down everything you need to know about solar inverters to help you make an informed purchase when you go hunting for quotes for your very own rooftop solar power system.

Here are some key points on the importance of solar inverters when you decide to invest in a solar power system:

  • Solar inverters play a crucial role in maximizing the energy output of solar panels. They optimize the solar panel system’s energy production by tracking the maximum power point (MPP) of each panel, ensuring that the panels are generating electricity at their maximum capacity.
  • Solar inverters help maintain the stability and reliability of the electricity grid. They ensure that the solar energy fed into the grid is of high quality and meets the required voltage and frequency standards.
  • Solar inverters ensure the safety of the solar energy system by monitoring and protecting against electrical faults such as overvoltage, overcurrent, and ground faults.
  • Solar inverters provide monitoring and control capabilities for solar energy systems. They enable users to track the energy production and performance of the solar panels, detect any issues or faults, and adjust the system’s settings as needed.
  • Solar inverters can help reduce energy costs and increase energy independence by enabling solar energy system owners to sell excess electricity back to the grid or use it for backup power during grid outages.
  • As solar energy systems become more popular and accessible, solar inverters are becoming increasingly sophisticated and intelligent, incorporating features such as advanced monitoring, remote control, and artificial intelligence to optimize energy production and efficiency.

 

There are three primary inverter setups:

  1. string inverters,
  2. inverters with power optimisers and
  3. micro inverters.

In this article we help you gain a better understanding of the purpose and functionality of all three types of inverters to help you gain a better understanding of which type of inverter is best suited to your needs.

STRING INVERTERS

String inverters are a type of solar inverter that convert the direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used to power your appliances. String inverters are named after the string or array of solar panels that they are connected to.

Here are some key characteristics of string inverters:

  • They are typically used in residential and commercial solar systems.
  • They can handle the electricity output of multiple solar panels that are connected in series as a string.
  • They have a single maximum power point tracker (MPPT) that optimizes the solar panel system’s output based on the lowest performing panel in the string.
  • They are less expensive and simpler to install compared to other types of inverters, such as microinverters or power optimizers.
  • They may experience performance losses if one or more solar panels in the string are shaded, dirty, or damaged.
  • They require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity.
  • They can be equipped with monitoring systems that track the solar panel system’s energy production and performance.

Advantages of installing a string inverter

  • String inverters are less expensive and simpler to install compared to other types of inverters, such as microinverters or power optimizers.
  • They can handle the electricity output of multiple solar panels that are connected in series as a string.
  • String inverters have a single maximum power point tracker (MPPT) that optimizes the solar panel system’s output based on the lowest performing panel in the string.
  • They require minimal maintenance and are designed for long-term use.
  • String inverters can be equipped with monitoring systems that track the solar panel system’s energy production and performance.
  • String inverters are widely available and have a proven track record of performance and reliability.
  • They are well-suited for large-scale solar installations, as they can efficiently manage the electrical output of a large number of solar panels.
  • String inverters can help reduce energy costs and increase energy independence by enabling solar energy system owners to sell excess electricity back to the grid or use it for backup power during grid outages.

String inverters have some disadvantages as well that should be taken into consideration when choosing a solar inverter:

  1. Efficiency loss: String inverters can suffer from efficiency loss when they are not operating at the optimal power point (MPP). This is because all the panels in the string are connected in series, and the weakest panel will reduce the overall efficiency of the system.
  2. Limited design flexibility: String inverters have limited design flexibility, as the entire system has to be wired in a string configuration. This means that if you want to add more panels in the future, you will need to install another inverter, which can be expensive.
  3. Shadow and panel mismatch issues: String inverters can also suffer from shadow and panel mismatch issues. If one panel in the string is shaded or not performing as well as the others, it will bring down the overall performance of the entire string.
  4. Maintenance cost: String inverters are relatively easy to maintain, but they can be more expensive to repair or replace than micro-inverters or power optimizers, as they are a central point of failure for the entire system.
  5. Safety concerns: String inverters can also pose safety concerns if the DC voltage is not properly managed. The high voltage DC power can be dangerous if not handled by a trained professional, and can pose a fire hazard if there is a fault in the system.

Conclusion

Overall, string inverters are a cost-effective solution for smaller residential solar systems, but larger commercial systems may require a more sophisticated solution to overcome the limitations of string inverters.

MICROINVERTERS

Microinverters are small inverters that are installed on each solar panel in a solar array. Unlike traditional string inverters that are installed at a central location, microinverters convert the DC power generated by each panel into AC power independently. This means that each solar panel operates independently, which can offer several advantages over string inverters.

Here are some advantages of installing microinverters in Australia:

  1. Improved performance in shading: Microinverters can perform better than string inverters in shading conditions because each panel is independent. If one panel is shaded, the other panels in the array can still operate at maximum efficiency, and the overall system will not be impacted as much as with a string inverter.
  2. Better monitoring: Microinverters offer panel-level monitoring, which can help you identify problems with individual panels. This can help you maintain your system more efficiently and detect issues early on, which can prevent more costly repairs down the line.
  3. Increased design flexibility: With microinverters, each panel is independent, which means you can add or remove panels from your system without having to worry about the entire string. This can make it easier to expand or upgrade your system in the future.
  4. Increased safety: Microinverters operate at a lower voltage than string inverters, which can improve the safety of your system. In addition, since each panel operates independently, there is no high-voltage DC wiring, which can pose a safety hazard.
  5. Improved efficiency: Microinverters can offer higher efficiency than string inverters, as each panel can operate at its maximum efficiency without being impacted by other panels in the array. This can result in higher overall system efficiency and better energy production.

While microinverters offer several advantages over traditional string inverters, there are some disadvantages to consider when installing microinverters to your solar power system:

  1. Higher cost: Microinverters are generally more expensive than traditional string inverters. Since each panel requires its own microinverter, the cost can add up quickly, especially for larger systems.
  2. Limited compatibility: Microinverters may not be compatible with all solar panels, so it is important to ensure that the microinverters you choose are compatible with the panels you plan to install. This can limit your options when selecting components for your solar power system.
  3. Complex installation: Microinverters require more complex installation than traditional string inverters. Each panel needs to be installed with a microinverter, which can increase the time and labour required for installation.
  4. Maintenance: Microinverters are more complex than traditional string inverters, which can make maintenance and repairs more difficult and time-consuming. This can increase the cost of ownership over time.
  5. Durability: Microinverters are exposed to the elements and can be vulnerable to damage from weather or other environmental factors. This means that they may have a shorter lifespan than traditional string inverters and may need to be replaced more frequently.

 

Conclusion

Overall, while microinverters offer several advantages over traditional string inverters, they may not be the best choice for every solar power system. It is important to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of both types of inverters before making a decision for your solar power system.

Although microinverters can offer several advantages over traditional string inverters, especially in challenging Australian conditions such as shading and high temperatures, microinverters are typically more expensive than string inverters, and the cost may not be justifiable for smaller systems.

POWER OPTIMISERS

Power optimizers are electronic devices that are installed on each solar panel in a solar power system. They work by regulating the DC power output of each panel, which can improve the performance and efficiency of the overall system.

Here are some of the benefits of installing a solar power system with power optimizers in Australia:

  1. Improved performance in shading: Power optimizers can help improve the performance of your solar power system in shading conditions. By regulating the DC output of each panel, power optimizers can help mitigate the impact of shading on the performance of your system.
  2. Panel-level monitoring: Power optimizers offer panel-level monitoring, which can help you identify issues with individual panels. This can help you detect problems early on and maintain your system more efficiently.
  3. Increased design flexibility: Power optimizers can offer more design flexibility than traditional string inverters. Since each panel operates independently, you can add or remove panels from your system without worrying about the impact on the rest of the system.
  4. Improved safety: Power optimizers can improve the safety of your solar power system by regulating the DC output of each panel. This can help reduce the risk of electrical hazards and improve the safety of your system.
  5. Increased efficiency: Power optimizers can help improve the efficiency of your solar power system. By regulating the DC output of each panel, power optimizers can help ensure that each panel operates at its maximum efficiency, which can increase the overall efficiency of your system and improve energy production.

While power optimizers offer several benefits for solar power systems, there are also some disadvantages to consider:

  1. Higher cost: Power optimizers are generally more expensive than traditional string inverters. Since each panel requires its own power optimizer, the cost can add up quickly, especially for larger systems.
  2. Complex installation: Power optimizers require more complex installation than traditional string inverters. Each panel needs to be installed with a power optimizer, which can increase the time and labour required for installation.
  3. Maintenance: Power optimizers are more complex than traditional string inverters, which can make maintenance and repairs more difficult and time-consuming. This can increase the cost of ownership over time.
  4. Durability: Power optimizers are exposed to the elements and can be vulnerable to damage from weather or other environmental factors. This means that they may have a shorter lifespan than traditional string inverters and may need to be replaced more frequently.
  5. Compatibility: Power optimizers may not be compatible with all solar panels, so it is important to ensure that the power optimizers you choose are compatible with the panels you plan to install. This can limit your options when selecting components for your solar power system.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while power optimizers offer several advantages over traditional string inverters, they may not be the best choice for every solar power system. It is important to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of both types of inverters before making a decision for your solar power system.

Although power optimizers can offer several benefits over traditional string inverters, especially in challenging Australian conditions such as shading and high temperatures, they can be more expensive than string inverters, so it is important to carefully consider the costs and benefits of both types of inverters before making a decision for a solar power system for your home.

How do I determine what type of solar inverter is best suited for my needs?

To determine which type of solar inverter is best suited for your needs, there are several factors to consider:

  1. System size: The size of your solar power system will play a role in determining which type of inverter is best suited for your needs. For smaller systems, a string inverter may be a more cost-effective option, while larger systems may benefit from microinverters or power optimizers.
  2. Shading: If your solar panels will be installed in a shaded area, microinverters or power optimizers may be a better option than a string inverter. These technologies can help improve the performance of your system in shading conditions.
  3. Budget: Cost is an important factor to consider when selecting an inverter for your solar power system. Microinverters and power optimizers are generally more expensive than string inverters, so you will need to determine whether the added cost is justified based on the benefits they offer.
  4. Design flexibility: If you anticipate making changes to your solar power system in the future, such as adding or removing panels, microinverters or power optimizers may offer more design flexibility than a string inverter.
  5. Maintenance and repair: Consider the maintenance and repair requirements of each type of inverter. Microinverters and power optimizers can be more complex and require more maintenance and repairs than string inverters.
  6. Climate: Your location and climate can also play a role in selecting the best type of inverter for your needs. For example, if you live in an area with high temperatures, power optimizers may be more suitable due to their ability to regulate the DC output of each panel.

The best option is to consult with a professional solar installer like by speaking to our solar experts at Solar Power Nation to determine the best type of solar inverter for your specific needs and circumstances. They can help evaluate the factors above and provide recommendations that are tailored to your situation. Call us today to speak with our solar experts!

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