In the old days of solar, all the PV panels used to be connected to a single, large inverter that would convert the direct current (DC) of the sun into the alternating current (AC) we use in outlets around the home.
The system acted like one giant solar panel, with its max current rating equivalent to its poorest performing PV unit.
That means if one of those connected panels experienced a reduction in energy because it was covered by shade or it failed, the entire system would experience that loss.
Similar to the way a string of christmas lights will fail if one goes down, the saying, “you’re only strong as your weakest link” comes to mind when thinking of how these single inverter setups work.
Then in 2008 Enhphase released the first commercially successful microinverter. The idea behind the project was to allow each panel to function more autonomously, so if one panel had issues the entire energy output of the system wouldn’t suffer.
In order to do this, microinverters are used on every PV panel or every other PV panel, and have become popular in homes, where solar array sizes are small and maximizing the performance of every panel is necessary.
Since 2008, microinverters have become increasingly intelligent and companies such as APsystems have innovated technology like a Field Programmable Gate Array chip with software that can be wireless programed to modify each panel’s DC-to-AC conversion to meet the demands of a changing environment without needing to climb up on the roof and replace the hardware.
Such residential microinverters like the APsystem’s YC500A allow users to monitor each microinverter unit, giving them a clear overview of the entire system at any time. If a panel fails or is not performing well, it can be quickly identified. Additionally, because every unit functions more independently than the antiquated single inverter system, different models of solar panels can be rigged up to feed into the same power system. This makes it so a homeowner doesn’t have to replace all their PV panels at one time, but can swap out or add new panels as the technology improves.
No doubt that when it comes to renewable energy such as PV solar or wind turbines, microinverters offer more flexibility and advantage. Some studies put them at producing 5-25% more power than the single inverter systems. As the solar market continues to expand, we’re going to see these little guys make a huge difference.