What is a solar micro inverter?
A solar inverter is an essential device within a photovoltaic system. This clever technology converts the direct current (DC) electricity solar panels generate into alternating current (AC), suitable for home or grid consumption.
An inverter enables efficient utilisation of solar energy, as AC power is what most household appliances and the national power grid use. Modern solar inverters also offer advanced features like monitoring energy production, optimising performance, and ensuring grid compliance.
The inverter for solar panels harnesses sustainable energy from sunlight and reduces carbon emissions in the United Kingdom’s energy landscape.
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Three different types of solar inverters
STRING (CENTRAL) INVERTERS
String inverters, also known as central inverters, are the oldest and most common type of solar inverter in use today. They work by connecting a string of solar panels to one single inverter, which converts the total DC input into AC output.
Pros: Because string inverters are the oldest type of solar inverters, they are also the most reliable. After years of being on the market and used in thousands and thousands of installations, string inverters have had most of the earlier pitfalls worked out. They are also the least expensive solar inverter option.
String inverters are also usually installed in an easy to access location in your home. This allows for easy access to monitor, repair, or replace the inverter.
Cons: While string inverters are reliable, they are also less efficient at optimizing solar energy output. Because string inverters are connected to an entire string of solar panels, shading on one solar panel will cut the power output of the entire string.
Also, string inverters only offer total-system monitoring as opposed to panel-level monitoring. This can be a disadvantage when diagnosing issues with solar production, and it can also be unfortunate for those solar homeowners who want a more granular level of monitoring.
Micro-inverters work by converting DC to AC directly from the back of each solar panel. Therefore no string (central) inverter is necessary because each micro-inverter converts the DC to AC immediately and then sends it straight on to your electric/fuse/breaker box, for use in your home.
Pros: Because each micro-inverter is converting the DC to AC on each panel immediately, the solar panel array will only be minimally impacted by shading on individual panels. If shade covers one panel, only that panel will produce less power output as opposed to the whole system output decreasing, as in a string inverter setup.
Micro-inverters are also easy to expand with your solar system in the future should you add to your current array. Any solar panel that is added to the system just needs to have a micro-inverter installed on the back of the panel.
As with power optimizers, micro-inverters also allow for panel-level monitoring of the solar system, which allows for any solar output issues to be diagnosed more easily and accurately through remote monitoring software.
Cons: Micro-inverters are a little more expensive than other solar inverter options. That aside, their benefits can easily outweigh the higher costs in certain situations, especially if shading is an issue.
Solar Power optimizers are located on the back of each solar panel, and they work in conjunction with a string inverter to convert DC to AC. They do this by conditioning the DC electricity from each panel and sending that conditioned DC to the string inverter to convert to AC electricity.
Pros: Because power optimizers can condition the DC electricity produced by each individual solar panel, they can decrease the impact of shading on individual panels. If one solar panel is partially shaded, it will not degrade the output of the entire string as with a simple string inverter setup.
Power optimizers also have the benefit of allowing panel-level monitoring, along with system-level monitoring thanks to the string inverter. This means any issues with solar output can be diagnosed more easily, with each solar panel being monitored individually. It also allows the homeowner to see a more detailed level of monitoring.
Cons: Power optimizers are more expensive than using just a string inverter, but they are still less expensive than micro-inverters.
Power optimizer systems also require additional power optimizers and potentially additional string inverters if you expand your solar panel system in the future.
There's shading on parts of my roof
Solar Panel Micro-Inverters
Are solar micro-inverters worth the extra investment?
Although the upfront cost of micro-inverter technology is higher than that of a string inverter, they will provide you with a better return on your investment over time. It stands to reason that if micro-inverters increase the performance of your solar panels and therefore the output of your solar system as well as being more reliable, then over time they will have a better pay back for you. Inaddition to solar-edge, Tigo micro-inverters and Enphase micro- inverters are also very versatile and popular. We must also consider the lifespans of this equipment, which can be a little less than 10 years for a central inverter and can reach 30 years for a micro-inverter