Solar inverters and why you need them

The last decade was a roller-coaster ride for both humanity and humankind. It was when we witnessed the downfall of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s notorious chief, saw Pope Benedict XVI abdicate the Papal throne. The most extravagant wedding (Prince Harry And Kate Middleton) premiered on world television and, of course, we got a new Prime Minister.

The yester decade was thrilling as well as discouraging, especially when it comes to solar energy. Acts like the Clean Energy Act of 2005 helped expand our horizons of using the non-conventional energy sources to generate electricity. The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) enacted under the Clean Energy Act was to ensure that we cut down on our carbon footprint and help mitigate climate change.

However, over the past decade, the Clean Energy Act and ITC have gone through much. There have been significant amends since its inception in 2005, which has led us to the present state. Now is the time that we face a dire need to make the shift towards clean energy. It is high time for you, in case you have been thinking about setting up a solar power module.

With every passing year, the solar tariffs are shrinking, only to halt at a permanent 10% of commercial properties by the end of 2023. As for residential properties, the hopes of getting any rebates on the solar power modules will be null in the coming years.

Now, if you think of it, and are ready to invest in a solar module, you must know about its essential elements. Knowing the pros and cons of the devices that you will be using on your solar module will help make energy-efficient decisions. Here we will discuss solar inverters and their types.

Since solar modules operate on a variety of scales, there exist different types of solar inverters. Having explicit knowledge about different inverter types will allow you to pick the right one, and save more money with your solar module. However, if you are wondering why does a photovoltaic system need an inverter, here’s why:

Photovoltaic (PV) systems are composed of one or more solar panels. The panels that are connected in series to form a ‘string’ put out direct current (DC) that transfers to an inverter. You must know that most of the electrical equipment (at homes, offices, and other places) operates on alternating current (AC). Hence, Inverter.

Solar Inverter is a device that ‘inverts’ the DC voltage into AC form so that the appliances can operate. Since the Inverter has to convert the inputs of solar panels into usable electricity, its type will depend on the capacity of the module. Yet, the three most popular Solar inverter types are:

Micro-Inverters

Micro Inverters connect to individual solar panels of a module. Hence, installing a micro-inverter would mean that you’ll need one for each solar panel in your solar module. These inverters are located on the back of a solar panel, or closest to it.

Advantages of Microinverters

  • With Micro inverters, you can monitor the output of individual solar panels. These allow maximum power point tracking. (MPPT)
  • Various factors affect the voltage output of a module; microinverters make sure that the entire system does not cease to function at once. In situations when a single panel does not receive enough sunlight, others will still give maximum output.
  • Since you will have to connect these near the solar panels, they eliminate the need for heavy-voltage DC wiring.
  • Micro Inverters will allow you to install the solar module in all practical places and orientations.

Disadvantages of Microinverters

Since a microinverter can only convert the DC output of a single panel, there will come an upfront investment along with such installations.

Individual inverter installations will take more servicing and maintenance; hence, it is time-consuming.

Microinverter installation will be near solar panels (that is, in the sunlight), meaning that these are subject to overheating.

String Inverters

String inverters connect to the ‘strings’ of solar panels. Remember the ‘string’ that you read about? Yes, the same that has a certain number of solar panels connected in series! In any PV system, there will be one inverter for each string of inverters; hence, the number of strings you deploy, the more inverters you’ll need.

Advantages of String Inverters

  • String Inverter installation and their maintenance is less time taking, in comparison with Micro, as you will have lesser inverters to look after!
  • There are two variations available: single-phase and three-phase string inverters that you can choose from.
  • These inverters comply with both residential as well as commercial solar installations. They can operate with modules of capacity ranging between 36-125 kW.

Disadvantages of String Inverters

  • These will not facilitate the MPPT of individual solar panels.
  • High voltage level suggests significant hazards if not handled with care.
  • Although string inverts offer quick-maintenance, they’ll need more effort because of complicated construction.

Central Inverters

Central Inverters are large-scale string inverters. Such an inverter is a single transfer point for the DC voltage output coming from all the panels of a PV system. These are also called utility-scale inverters.

Advantages of Central Inverters

  • Central inverters are a cost-effective investment. Since you will need only one inverter for a PV system, the cost of having several inverters eliminates.
  • These inverters provide higher efficiency, as they account for lesser voltage loss during transfer.
  • Central inverters are more reliable because you’ll install them away from the module, in a shaded place, where they’ll be safe from overheating and other exterior factors.

Disadvantages of Central Inverters

  • Central inverters are subject to potential single point collapse. Since the ‘string’ acts as a single unit, improper functioning of any panel will pull-down the output provided by the entire PV system.
  • Higher risk factor is involved with such installations as both the installers and the PV system keepers will have to deal with high-voltages.
  • Since these inverters are hefty and their repair needs skilled professionals, the replacement cost can come as a pocket-wrecker.

Which Inverter should you choose?

The kind of Inverter you should install depends on your solar power module. If you are planning to install a residential module that can generate enough electricity to meet your daily energy needs, choose micro inverters. These are ideal for small-scale use as they ensure maximum output from every panel in the system. You can also use string inverters for residential modules.

For commercial modules, it is best to use central inverters. Yet, consulting with a professional will help. In case you are wondering why do you need a solar expert, here’s why:

A solar professional can and will guide you towards installing the ideal module by the geographical location that you have in mind. Proper consultation and guidance will help you to figure out and decide on the best modules by your budget and need. Also, you’ll need the help of a professional because 2020 is the best and the almost last chance to go solar! So, why wait?