One of the most popular debates over the last few years in the energy sector has been the one between “string” solar inverters and micro-inverters. The latter has been used in more than half of all the solar installations in North America. Micros, as these micro-inverters are better known as, have many advantages over general inverters. Though they come at a bigger price, the extra amount paid is worth it at the end of the day.
What is a micro inverter?
A micro inverter is a small inverter that is attached to each solar panel, individually. This is different from the traditional type of inverters, which are generally located on a wall. This inverter is some distance from the solar panel strings and is connected with the help of DC cables. DC power from the panel strings are converted into AC and supplied at the inverter.
Microinverters are generally attached to each individual solar panel that works independently. The rest of the array of panels convert DC to AC on the roof. Some of these solar panels are also available with factory-installed micro inverters and are referred to as the AC Solar Modules.
An overview of the advantages of microinverters
Microinverters can improve the performance of systems as they trigger all the panels and make them work at their maximum speed. An added advantage of microinverters is its ability to locate the different panels on various sections of roof layouts that have different tilt angles and orientations. Microinverters aren’t restricted to panel placement in a certain orientation.
Microinverters also don’t have a single point of failure, which is important in large systems with so many panels. Unlike string inverter systems, even if one panel has an issue or fault, the rest of the system can still operate smoothly, with no loss in the generation of power.
The basis of micro inverters lies in the fact that you can yield a higher rate of solar electricity, theoretically speaking. This is because of the slight differences between the solar panels. When these solar panels are in a traditional inverter, the voltage becomes reduced to that of the lowest voltage panel on the entire system
If a solar system faces many different angles, wherein some panels face east, south or west, then micro-inverters are the best option for you. Even if you’re facing shading issues from greenery or other installations such as chimneys, microinverters are your best option. Solar panels produce vast amounts of electricity at various points of the day and micro-inverters ensure you harvest all of that energy. A standard inverter might end up causing a loss of production.
Standard inverters are best used when the solar panels all face a single direction, or you have marginal issues with shading. However, it might be hard to find the most ideal of conditions and harvest all the energy, which is why microinverters are the way to go. Installing an extra optimizer to standard inverters might do the trick, but they require higher investment. These optimizers work similarly to micro inverters but need that extra bit of investment while installing.
There are a few others that need to be considered as well. Most micro inverters have 25-year warranties while the standard inverters have anywhere between 5 to 10 years only. Microinverter reliability was a big question many years ago, but technology has caught up to provide longer warranties on these inverters and showcase the confidence manufacturers have in microinverters and their related products With the standard system, you can only track the production of the whole system but microinverters offer the additional boost in system monitoring as well. You can track the production of each individual panel and gauge the various parameters from the readings you get.
Micro inverters are small in size and can fit behind a solar panel. This means you don’t need a separate cooling system acting as the central inverters, leading to a lesser loss in the form of heat. These solar panels also don’t affect the solar output generated from the different panels while Central inverters can bring the entire generation to a halt if one fails
Micro inverters can be remotely managed, as the output from the solar panel is monitored with the help of a communication bus, thus isolating problems faster compared to other inverters. The output is converted from DC to AC behind the panel, an extra cable is required to carry the current. This cable, however, can be of a lower diameter, with the solar system easily expandable from single to multiple panels that are independent of one another
Micro inverters are also the ideal option as they can be easily installed due to its relatively smaller size. It is suitable for any residential building and each panel can be oriented differently, as mentioned before.
Simply put, microinverters are a simple resource that can be added once at a time. If you’re expanding for the future, its best to make that investment now to avoid any issues a few years down the line.
Standard inverters require additional investment to add any other full unit. These microinverters are a definite spike in value and are recommended if you have different panels that face multiple orientations. Choose a microinverter that is of great quality to ensure you don’t have to constantly fix or repair the same. These inverters are a great way to save your money and also the environment in the process, in a secure manner.