With the continuous quest towards global sustainability, solar power is being more popular than it was. Aside from solar roof installation in private residences, solar farms are also built in different countries to supply alternative energy at a massive scale. With the growth of the solar industry, it is important that you understand how it works. A key to understanding the system it to know the different components. In this article, our focus is the central inverter. Keep on reading to know more.
What is a Solar Inverter?
From solar panels to batteries, a solar set-up has several components. They must work together to generate alternative electricity supplied to the end users. Among others, one of the most important components is an inverter.
In a nutshell, a solar inverter converts DC into AC, which is a must so that the energy of the sun can be transformed into electricity that powers appliances. It determines the amount of the energy that is sent to the users who are connected to the solar system. The conversion into alternating current is crucial for creating electricity fed into an off-grid network or an electrical grid.
Aside from the conversion of power, a solar inverter will also ensure a safer operation. When there is an electrical arc, the inverter shuts down the solar panels. This will protect the other parts of the solar system against damages.
What are the Different Types of a Solar Inverter?
As you become familiar with solar inverters, it is also important that you know the different types available. Below, we’ll quickly talk about some of them.
· String Inverter: This is the most common type of solar inverter available. There are multiple strings that make up solar farms or a traditional solar set-up at home. Each panel has a string, and a string inverter connects them to each other. It can be installed either indoors or outdoors, depending on what is most suitable for a specific application. They have been around for quite a while, and hence, these inverters are easy to find. Some inverters are paired with power optimizers, which will come in handy in terms of maximizing output.
· Microinverter: A module-level electronic, this type of inverter is installed in every panel. It is installed at the back to optimize the energy conversion. While it is a great way to maximize the benefits of each panel, the biggest drawback is its price. It is more expensive compared to string inverters. It is also a greataddition to panels where there is shade.
· Hybrid Inverter: It works almost the same way as a string inverter, but the main difference is that it has the additional functionality of allowing excess energy to befed into a battery. This means that there is reserved electricity that can be used when there is no energy generated by the solar grid. However, while performing two functions in one inverter may seem like a good idea, in reality, it can reduce the efficiency of the system.
Another type of a solar inverter is known as a central inverter, which is what we will be talking about in the next part of this quick guide.
What is a Central Inverter?
Aside from those mentioned above, you can also opt for a central inverter in your solar system. It is almost similar to a string inverter, but the most distinct characteristic is that it is large. This makes it a great option for large-scale applications, such as for inverters used in a solar farm. It is built specifically for utility-scale applications. They can support more panels without compromising performance. Rather than having strings that connect the individual solar panels, it joins all the strings in a combiner box where they are also protected. It has the highest efficiency out of all the types of inverters.
Specifications You Need to Understand
As you try to understand central inverters, one of the most important is to understand their technical specifications. This is important to differentiate the possibilities and determine how one is different from the others. Below, we’ll talk about some of the most important specifications you should be looking at.
This is the maximum DC power, which will depend on the power value of the central inverter. It is just a little more than the total rated capacity of the inverter. More so, input power also refers to the maximum input voltage. It is usually 1,000 to 1,500 volts depending on the brand and model of the central inverter.
Maximum Power Point Tracking
Also called MPPT, this refers to a function where the PV modules are forced to operate at their maximum capacity to optimize the performance. Out of all the types of solar inverters, a central inverter has the lowest maximum power point. Despite this, it should not be a problem because solar inverters are designed for solar farms, or other similar places where there is uniform tilt and orientation of the PV modules.
One of the most important output parameters is the rated power. This is the inverter’s maximum AC power and often included in the model name of the inverter. For central inverters, the output power is a minimum of 100 kilowatts. Depending on its size, it can be as high as a few megawatts.
The AC nominal voltage and frequency are other important factors that will determine the output power of a central inverter. With central inverters, the AC nominal voltage and frequency should match the electric grid where the inverter will be installed. Meanwhile, one thing that is common is that it is often three-phase.
Advantages of a Central Inverter
If you are not convinced that central inverters are great, below are some of the benefits that might make you change your mind.
- Proven Reliability: Central inverters have been around for a long time and they have been used by many businesses. Even if you go online and read about central inverters, you will find proof that it is indeed exceptional.
- Easy Diagnostics: Another selling point of central inverters is that they have diagnostic capabilities. This means that they can provide you with a warning when there is something faulty. In turn, you can act immediately to fix the problem before it worsens.
- Quick Monitoring: With other types of solar inverters, you will need to monitor panels individually. In contrast, in a central inverter, you will monitor only one, which will make the process more efficient.
- Effortless Maintenance: When there are lots of inverters installed in individual panels, then you will need to exert more effort when it comes to care and maintenance. However, when there is only a central inverter, maintenance is a breeze.
- Cost-Effective: The cost per unit of a central inverter can be quite high. However, if you consider the per kilowatt cost, it is a lot more affordable. This is because you don’t have to purchase several inverters for the system.
Disadvantages of a Central Inverter
Despite the good things about a central inverter, it is inevitable that there are also problems. Below are some of the drawbacks you need to know.
- High Fault Rate: The problem with a central inverter is that when it fails, the entire system will be affected. This is unlike in the case of string inverters that will affect only a single panel.
- Expensive Replacement Cost: When you need to replace a central inverter, the cost can be an issue for many users. It is expensive compared to a string inverter. The high cost is probably because it powers a larger system.
- Difficult Installation: Even if you have only one central inverter that powers multiple solar panels, the installation is tricky. One reason for this is because you will need machine room installation and deployment.
In sum, a central inverter is one of the popular types of solar inverter. The main function of the latter is to convert DC into AC, allowing end users to maximize the power of the sun. this