The main advantage of micro inverters in that each panel is monitored and optimized individually to generate maximum power. Solar panels can generate different amounts of power due to a number of reasons such as shading, dirt and mismatch which is explained in more detail below. In a standard string installation the panels are linked together in series and the power output of the entire string can be greatly reduced by a single poor performing, shaded or dirty panel. However, using micro's can overcome this and help avoid the many reasons solar systems can under-perform including:
Shading – Trees, buildings, poles, wires, antennas, or rooftop structures
Soiling – Dust, snow, bird droppings or birds
Panel mismatch – manufacturing tolerances
Panel faults – micro cracking, hot spots or water ingress, or LID
Temperature difference – thermal mismatch at different times of the day
Panel Ageing - Panel degradation at different rates over time
No PID – Eliminates Potential voltage and current leakage issues
Odd roof layouts - Panels mounted at different orientations and angles
Small roof -Roof area’s which can only fit a small number of panels
Micro inverters are a great alternative to the common 'string' solar inverter and are used in over half of all solar installations in North America. Micro inverters, also known as micros, have several advantages over string solar inverters but a slightly higher upfront cost. In this article we examine whether it is worth paying extra and what advantages micro inverters have over common string inverters. For those new to solar learn the basics of how solar works here.
Enphase Energy founded in 2006 has long been regarded as the world leading micro inverter manufacturer. Based in the US, Enphase launched the first micro inverter, the M175 in 2008 but it wasn’t until the next gen M190 was launched in 2009 that sales really took off. Ever since Enphase have established themselves as an industry leader in micro inverter technology and have a huge market share in North America. Sales in other regions such as Europe and in Australia have been low in comparison but are growing as both consumers and installers realise the many benefits of micro inverters.
What is a Micro Inverter?
A micro inverter is as very small inverter designed to be attached each individual solar panel. This is much different to common string solar inverters which are usually located on a wall some distance from the string of solar panels and connected via DC cable. In string inverter systems, DC power from the string of the panels is then converted to AC at the inverter. Since micro Inverters are attached to every solar panel, each panel works independently from the rest of the solar array and DC power is converted to AC immediately on the roof. Some solar panels are also available with factory installed micro inverters these are referred to as AC solar modules which we discuss in detail later in this review.
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