Today we are going to be talking about some of the advantages and differences that micro-inverters present when used in a solar pv system. Micro-inverters and power optimizers (module-level power electronics, or MLPEs) do offer some tangible benefits when used in a solar pv system in our Alaskan environment. But are micro-inverters or MLPEs the right for you and your solar project in Alaska? Let’s discuss the benefits.
Micro-inverters are now in their seventh generation of development and have been improving in efficiency and reliability throughout that timeline. Early models had reliability issues but that has dramatically improved with modern generation micro-inverters.
For instance, ASV installed over 1,000 Enphase micro-inverters last year without a single issue. This year we are doubling that number. So what advantages do they offer to your solar energy system and why do we install so many of them here?
What are the differences between micro-inverters and central/ string inverters?
- If one panel (or solar module) starts producing less power than the rest of the array – the other panels/ modules remain at optimal output. If one panel/module produces less in a central/ string inverter system they all produce less (or could not produce power at all).
- They allow installations with multiple positions (azimuths) to the sun. In a central/ string inverter system all of the panels/ modules must be facing the same direction (azimuth). We build many systems that have multiple azimuths and this is a definite design advantage for Alaska.
- They allow for individual solar panel/ module production monitoring. Each panel/ module has its own data reporting because of this. String inverter systems do not allow for this (unless they use MLPE optimizers).
- They convert DC to AC power more efficiently than string inverters. That means more power delivered to your home for use by your electrical appliances.
- They come with longer warranties. 25 years vs 5 year or 10 year with central/ string inverters.
- They perform better in variable weather conditions. Micro-inverters subjected to cloud cover, rain, snow, and shading all perform better than a central/ string inverter systems subjected to those same variable conditions.
- They are safer. Given that only AC wiring is present after the micro-inverter in the wiring of the system the risk for electrocution or bodily harm is greatly reduced (if something does go wrong). Micor-inverters are also compliant with a 100 millisecond shutdown mechanism when the grid goes down (this is part of what is called “rapid-shutdown” in the National Electric Code).
Micro-inverters aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but they definitely offer tangible advantages in many areas of a solar pv system when used in a solar PV system in Alaska. Choosing a solar company that can walk you through these differences and help you make the most informed choices is a key factor you should consider when shopping for a solar provider.