What type of solar inverter works best for you?

Introduction

The environmental crisis is defining the current situation. It is also happening earlier than what the experts anticipated. This has led to an increase in the usage of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels.

These solar panel systems contribute to the environment by reducing energy costs which result in less air pollution and greenhouse gases. They are an immense advantage to the planet as they replace/reduce the energy that has a larger effect on the environment.

The solar inverter is a vital element of this entire process. It works as a middleman between the solar panels and electricity due to which they are known as the ‘Brain of the solar panel system.’

But before moving further, one common question that arises in most of our minds is: Why are Inverters becoming important? Especially the Solar inverters!

The reason behind this is the power cuts which have become a common scenario in Australia. Excessive heat, load, and pollution are the major factors for these power failures. Most of our electronics and home appliances work on electricity only; hence, inverters are becoming an essential product for us.

These solar inverters convert the electricity from the solar panels into power, which is used for commercial, residential, and industrial appliances. They also analyse the performance of the entire solar power system; providing diagnostic data to observe and fix the technical failures, if any.

The solar inverters are installed on a wall outside the home, garage, or laundry. In short, they work best when placed in the shade.

How do solar inverters work?

The primary function of Solar Inverters is to convert DC (Direct Current) power to AC (Alternating Current) power which is generated in the power range of 250V to 600V.

But before understanding the principle, it is important to know about Direct Current and Alternate Current.

As the name suggests, the Direct Current flows in one direction only. And it supplies current when there is no electricity. The DC is used for minor appliances including electronic gadgets, MP3 players, iPods, etc. which means it is for those applications where power is stored in the battery.

The Alternate current flows backwards and forward consistently inside the circuit. This type of current is used for residential and commercial purposes.

Since most of these appliances run on alternating current; the solar inverters change the Direct Current output collected by solar panels to usable Alternate Current.

The solar panels are designed with the semiconductor layers of silicon. These layers are the combination of positive and negative energy that are connected by the junction. When the light from the sun hits the solar panel or photovoltaic cells, these layers absorb light and transfer the solar energy to photovoltaic cells.

When this energy runs around, it bumps the electron loss. As a result, electrons move between the positive and negative layers which generate electric current, known to be direct current.

After the energy is produced, it is sent to the solar inverter. If it is in excess, then it is stored in a battery for later use 

As mentioned before, the formation of this energy is direct current, but the home appliances run on alternating current. Thus, the inverter gets hold of the energy and runs it with the help of a transformer. Thereafter, the output comes out to be an alternating current.

What is the role of solar inverters? 

Without Solar inverters, the entire solar panel process cannot function. Also, the purpose of these types of inverters is not only the conversion of DC to AC. There are other functions which it performs: 

1.   Maximized energy production: The solar inverters are responsible to keep a track of solar array voltage to identify the maximum power at which modules can operate. When the degradation of a module or the shading occurs, it accidentally identifies the wrong peak in the string. Hence, reducing the overall energy production in the system ensures plentiful and clean power 

2.   Ensuring safe system operations: The solar inverters switch off themselves when an electric arc takes place. This could be because of material degradation or system ageing. However, it is to be noted that all the solar inverters do not perform this function. 

3.   Interfacing with the grid: The smart inverters i.e., new divisions of solar inverters move from one-way communication to two-way communication with the grid. It assists the grid in supporting functions, including communication, frequency, voltage, and control. For eg: During the time of voltage change, the inverters can switch to standby mode and observe how long the disturbance takes place. If it lasts too long, it turns off only then. 

Types of Inverters

While all the solar inverters perform the same functions, there are various types in the market from which we have to choose. It depends on our convenience, location, and the property we are living in.

There are 4 types of inverters available in and around Australia. They are:

  1. String Inverter
  2. Micro Inverter
  3. Hybrid Inverter, and
  4. Central Inverter

String Inverters

This type of inverter is connected directly with the grid and aggregates the ‘performance’ or power output of solar panel groups into the system as “strings”.

So, in such an inverter, the solar panels are arranged into groups that are connected by strings. Multiple strings (Up to 3) are connected to the central inverter.

The panel produces energy and sends it to the single inverter which converts all the electricity from the solar panel into alternating current electricity. However, most of these inverters do not support battery backup. 

The string inverters are used mostly by residential and business consumers. They are typically installed outside on a wall of the house and also situated some distance from the social array.

Advantages of String Inverters

·       Pocket Friendly – This type of inverter does not cost much as it depends on one string inverter per installation.

·       Durable – The string inverters are long-lasting and able to stand strong no matter what the situation is.

·       Lower Installation Cost – The installation of a string inverter requires zero or minimum installation cost as it doesn’t require any specialised tool or equipment.

·       Ease of Maintenance and Troubleshooting – As the inverter is mounted on a wall, you do not have to keep a check for troubleshooting. It is also suitable for those places where the climate is extremely hot or cold. 

·       Reduced wiring mishaps – Few wires are connected between a solar panel and string inverter. Hence, reducing the chance of setup being improperly cabled.

·       Power optimizer – These are not inverters rather an upgrade option of string inverter that covers the downsides of it. The power optimiser conditions and routes the energy to the central string inverter.

Micro-Inverters

The micro-inverters work as a standalone that is connected to the back of an individual panel. They perform the inverter functions, however, with each panel 

This type of inverter optimises each panel power at a module level. Each of them transforms DC to AC individually hence, optimizing the energy conversion 

They have the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) installed which tracks real-time solar intensity and cell temperature that varies throughout the day 

The micro-Inverters are used by residents and commercial arrangements where the rooftops or panels are partially affected by shade. This is because the partial shading affects only the shaded panel rather than the entire system. Hence, the inefficiency created wouldn’t be a hurdle for other solar panels.

Advantages of Micro Inverters 

·       Combats shade issues – As mentioned above, the micro-inverter manages the partial shading issue. Especially for those places where the solar panels are facing different directions.

·       Design flexibility – Since the module-oriented design works in different directions, hence, it is  not restrained to one particular side 

·       Reliability – The micro inverter is reliable as it works consistently even in harsh and extreme weather conditions with no failure 

·       Increase in system availability – one malfunctioning panel does not harm the entire system. Thus, the other panels work without any hurdles.

·       Easy Installation – Reduced installation cost and equipment requirements during the installation of the micro-inverter.

Hybrid Inverters

This type of inverter is a combination of off-grid and grid-tied inverters. It is the same as a standard string inverter, however, with the additional function of feeding excess energy generated by the solar panels. The hybrid inverter has a charge controller that manages the battery inverter system. It stores the excess energy in batteries that can be used later on for household appliances 

The hybrid inverter can also turn itself on standby mode when there is any problem instead of turning it off completely. With the MPPT installed, this inverter uses a DC coupling technique by which the battery is interfaced with the inverter 

The hybrid inverters are for users who encounter frequent power outages and excess load shedding.

Advantages of Hybrid Inverter 

·       Constant power supply – The hybrid inverter stores the excess energy, which can be used later. Hence, giving uninterrupted power supply throughout the day. Also, when there is an electric outage, the battery of this inverter functions as an inverter and provides backup 

·       Low Maintenance – As compared with traditional sources of energy, the hybrid inverter does not involve any fuel hence, requires no frequent service 

·       Load management – The hybrid inverter manages load by adjusting the energy supply according to the device they are connected to.

·       No energy wasted – As the excess energy is stored by the inverter, no energy goes in vain in the hybrid inverter 

·       Central Monitoring – The solar electricity is self-consumed or stored for future use. This allows for central monitoring for both the solar panel system and battery performance on one platform.

Central Inverters

The central inverter is a resemblance of a string inverter however the difference is that the strings of the panels are not put individually. Rather, all the strings of panels are joined and inserted in a combiner box which is kept in a protected territory. The strings receive DC electricity from the combiner box and convert it into AC electricity 

The central inverters work best for large-scale properties and businesses as the voltage for them could be high as 600 volts DC.

Advantages of Central Inverter 

·       Low Installation Cost – The installation cost of this type of inverter is low as only the combiner box and pad are needed for it 

·       Inexpensive – The central inverters are cheaper in terms of per KW cost compared to string and micro-inverters 

·       Flexible – The central inverters are flexible as they provide dual operating mode; working either on the island or grid-parallel mode 

·       Credibility – This inverter has been for a long time now and used by many large firms in Australia. Hence, a reliable source.

But we have to note that the solar panel, inverter, and battery bank should have the same input voltage when installing it.

Conclusion

As the technology advances, the inverters available are also more innovative. They simply do not just invert the electric current of the solar power system, but also drive a higher PV penetration 

Solar Inverters are gaining so much popularity nowadays. Not only is it beneficial for the environment, but also saves a lot of monthly expenses on electricity bills. With 96% energy efficiency, these inverters are a one-time investment with an average lifespan of 20 years. The maintenance requirements are pretty minimal too. The pricing of these inverters depends on the design, phase, and capacity it can hold 

If you are wondering what type of solar inverter will be beneficial for you, calculate the amount of energy you will be usually requiring. Although, we would suggest you seek professional help if you are looking for a consultant or purchase 

At Aussie Sun Solar, we provide complete pre-integrated solutions for solar power systems installation in Goldcoast, Sunshine Coast, Logan, Caboolture, and Ipswich, and surrounding areas. We also help you install residential as well as commercial solar energy systems.

To know more or to resolve queries, contact us at 1800 789 470 (or website – Aussiesunsolar or email id: info@aussiesunsolar.com.au).

Author: Harsh Patel

Date: August 13, 2021

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