You are currently viewing A beginner’s guide to Solar Inverters

A beginner’s guide to Solar Inverters

What are Solar Inverters?

The main purpose of a solar power system is to convert the Direct Current (DC) that is generated by solar panels into an Alternating Current (AC), which is the type of electricity that can be used to power your home. Solar power is the conversion of renewable energy derived from the sun into usable electricity to power your home or business. Solar Inverter technology has been steadily evolving over the past several decades to better enable homeowners to maximise the use of power from their solar PV systems. Both string inverters and Micro-Inverters do this job for you as a solar homeowner, but have unique technical functioning. Power optimizers are an option for standard string inverters, as well. They function very similar to Micro-Inverters, though electricity is not converted into AC behind each panel. That work still gets done at the string inverter. Therefor there are three basic types of solar inverters –

  1. String Inverter
  2. Micro-Inverter
  3. Power Optimisers(that are paired with String Inverters)

Micro-Inverters perform the same basic function as string inverters. The installation of Micro-Inverters is different from string inverters. Micro-Inverters are installed underneath each solar panel on a rooftop solar installation.

The big difference between micro inverters and string inverters is that a solar panel installation with micro inverters will typically have the same number of micro inverters as the total number of solar panels. However, there are certain micro inverters that accept two or four solar panels too.

An Overview of Micro Inverters

A micro-Inverter is simply a miniaturised inverter, sized to suit individual solar panels rather than a string of solar panels. They aren’t new; they first appeared in the late 1990’s but arguably it was a bit too early and the technology suffered from reliability issues and high prices. In the last few years, though, they have re-surfaced and are starting to really take off. Around the world there are at least 21 different brands of micro inverters, but in Australia, the most common brand by far is Enphase.

Enphase is an example of a leading manufacturer of Micro-Inverters in Australia. Enphase Micro-Inverters have been on the market since 2009 and have become an integral part of their booming business. Enphase has been consistently working towards developing their technology and their researchers have been studying how to best apply principles of maximum power point tracking (mppt) into their components for enhanced solar PV production to ensure an efficient system.

While standard string inverters will cap the electricity production of each solar panel by the lowest producing panel on your roof, Micro-Inverters don’t have this problem, since they function in a parallel circuit. A Micro-Inverters is considered to have higher efficiency as it takes full advantage of the production of each individual panel. It will convert the power generated by each panel to the grid voltage. Each solar panel and Micro-Inverters combination can “do their best” and contribute as much power as they can.

Optimizers on the other hand are able to smooth voltage and combat production differences, leading to enhanced solar power output, even in challenging, partially-shaded solar installations. Solaredge is a leading manufacturer of power optimizers.

In the run-off between micro-inverters and string inverters, which performs better depends on the shading conditions. It is as simple as this, if you have shade on your roof due to trees or tall buildings next to your roof, you need micro-inverters or optimisers as string inverters don’t work in shade.

Advantages of using Micro-Inverters

The core advantage of using Micro-Inverters is that with the installation of Micro-Inverters, you can yield more solar electricity. The reason for this is that there are slight differences in currents between solar panels. When solar panels are in a string, the current is reduced to that of the least-producing panel in the string. Other reasons why a Micro-Inverters would be preferred over a string inverters is if a solar system is facing multiple angles, meaning some panels are facing south, some east, and some west, then Micro-Inverters are the way to go. One of the most common situations when Micro-Inverters come in handy is when the roof where solar installation needs to take place has shading issues from trees or a large chimney. In these situations, the solar panels will be producing different amounts of electricity at different times of the day, but Micro-Inverters will ensure you harvest all of the energy, while with a standard string inverter you will lose some of this production.

Contact SunMate Solar today for a free quote and advice on which inverter type best suits your roof to provide maximum production.