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What Is a Solar Inverter?

Written by Nigel Engelbrecht

A solar inverter is the most important element in any energy system. Solar inverters, which vary considerably in size and application, convert direct current [DC] into alternate current [AC]. DC current comes from the solar panels, and AC current is what every appliance in your home or office uses. 

There are various types of inverters in use today, namely:

 

  1. Grid-tied inverters
  2. Off grid inverters
  3. Hybrid inverters
  4. Micro-inverters

Credit: Clean Energy Reviews

There are many solar inverters available in the market, ranging in size, type, and application-specific design. Depending on your specific needs, a qualified solar installer will recommend the best type of inverter required.

1. GRID-TIE INVERTER

Grid-tied inverters convert DC electrical power into AC power suitable for injecting into the electric utility company grid. The grid-tied inverter (GTI) must match the phase of the grid and maintain the output voltage slightly higher than the grid voltage at any instant.

Grid-tied inverters can take solar panels and batteries; however, they cannot feed back into the power grid. They need to be connected to the main power grid. Grid-tied inverters are the cheapest inverters available and come in small to large sizes.

Grid-tied inverters are used in commercial applications which can vary in size, from 20kw—60kw, which is considered normal in the commercial space. 

2. OFF-GRID INVERTER

An off-grid inverter is designed for off-grid systems. This means that they are not connected to the electricity grid and therefore require battery storage. Off-grid solar systems must be designed effectively so that they will generate enough power throughout the year and have enough battery capacity to meet the home’s requirements.

Off-grid systems are expensive and require large battery banks and PV arrays to ensure maximum energy sufficiency every day throughout the year. They are used when no main grid is available, or when customers opted to be independent of the main grid. Additionally, generators are used with off-grid inverters.

3. HYBRID INVERTER

An intelligent hybrid inverter, or smart grid inverter, is a trending generation of inverter for solar applications using renewable energy for home consumption, especially for solar photovoltaic installations

Hybrid inverters are becoming more popular as they allow for energy feedback into the main grid and can function in many respects as either a grid-tied or off-grid inverter. 

Intelligent use and integration of batteries, main grid, and/or generators when needed together. Hybrid inverter technology is fast-developing and leading the way in the global solar market with disruptive players like Sunsynk, offering price affordability combined with inverter intelligence. 

A key feature of a genuine hybrid inverter is that it can back-feed into the main grid when your energy system has excess load. Once governments eventually permit back feeding, it will allow owners of these hybrid inverters to enjoy credits from the main utility. 

4. MICRO-INVERTER

Micro-inverters are mini inverters attached to PV panels. They provide greater efficiency to each PV panel. They help to isolate the solar panels from debris and shade lines, including any single panel failure that may cause the entire PV array to fail. Micro-inverters are used only with PV panels and mainly in residential applications.

Solar inverters used for residential systems are generally small, ranging from 3kw—15kw in size. These are all dependent on energy consumption and need. In most instances, a residential inverter will be between 5kw—8kw in size, requiring a PV array and one or two batteries to store energy.

Considerations arise when designing for either single-phase or three-phase homes. Energy loads and peak demands mean that a qualified solar installer needs to check the specifications and install the correct inverter in your home.

5. COMMERCIAL SOLAR INVERTER

Solar inverters used in commercial applications can range from combining several smaller, ‘residential’ type inverters or using large high voltage inverters. This, of course, depends on the customer’s needs, as commercial projects vary in complexity.

Commercial systems rarely use batteries but mainly inverter/s and large PV panel arrays to generate a large amount of electricity during the day as most companies operate strictly and only during day-time hours. Commercial inverters are mainly used to save money, as the utility bills are often high and can benefit largely from PV systems.

Solar inverters are the brains of the entire system and vary in complexity based on application.

Read more on solar inverters.

Read more on solar batteries.

Read more on solar systems.

 

Thank you for reading this article. If you feel we have left any important information or would like to contribute to this site and content, please get in touch with us by leaving a comment or emailing us. 

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