Micro-inverters had their share of the limelight, but the victor of the battle between solar panel level add-on electronics may be the power optimizers.
In conventional solar power systems, DC power from the panels is transmitted to a central unit called a solar inverter, which then converts it to 240V AC, suitable for use in the home or for export to the mains grid.
An “AC solar panel” outputs DC, but on the reverse of the module is a micro-inverter converting the DC to AC, which removes the need for a central inverter.
A power optimizer is a different beastie again. It’s also a small box attached to the back of a panel, but it’s not an inverter, rather a device that works with an inverter to address some of the issues with traditional inverters, enabling maximum energy harvesting from an array.
Founded in 2006, SolarEdge established the DC power optimizer segment and leads it with over 70% market share.
SolarEdge Power Optimizers ensure each solar module is constantly kept at maximum power point (MPP), preventing losses attributable to issues including mismatched panels or partial shading conditions; therefore accelerating system investment payback time
While solar power systems are generally safe, the Solar Edge Power Optimizer enhances this safety, featuring very rapid automatic DC shutdown once the inverter is turned off, after grid disconnection or in reaction to high temperature.
Included with the SolarEdge system is access to an online portal, allowing system owners to monitor their array anytime, anywhere. In addition to performance data; module level, real-time alerts of system issues are pinpointed on a virtual map available via the portal.
The Solar Edge Power Optimizer can be retrofitted to existing PV systems to solve mismatch challenges and given the features, also finally frees owners of challenging rooftops to be able to make more use of their rooftop real estate.
With regard to a comparison to micro-inverters, Solar Edge says there is no need to add an inverter to every module as a Power Optimizer can achieve all the same benefits at lower cost, higher efficiency and with higher reliability.
Having shipped over 1.6 million Power Optimizers and a winner of the prestigious Intersolar 2012 Innovation Award, SolarEdge’s claim appears to be no idle boast.