What are Optimizers?
When most people think of a solar system, the two main components that come to mind are the solar panels and the inverter. A few years ago, this was essentially all that made up a standard solar system, however as solar technology has improved, many companies have developed products that enhance and build upon this basic framework, aiming to achieve greater generation for your system. The two prominent examples of this type of advancement are SolarEdge’s optimizers and Enphase Microinverters. For reasons that will be discussed in a later post, here at Hawking Solar, we place much more faith in the SolarEdge solution, which we have installed on hundreds of homes all over Brisbane.
The SolarEdge power optimizer is a DC/DC converter which when installed on the back of a panel, allows access to smart features that increase the performance of the system as a whole. These features include but are not limited to, panel optimization, per panel monitoring, and the ability to detect and prevent major electrical faults. Optimizers are growing more popular by the year and are suited to all environments. They are a comparatively small investment when compared to the cost of a system, and with a 25-year warranty, will maximize production for the lifetime of your new system.
The obvious immediate advantage of a SolarEdge optimizer is the immediate improvement of the efficiency of your panels through the ability for all of your panels to produce individually. Power tolerance is the measure of how the actual production of a panel will compare to its rated energy output. This is a leading cause of asynchronous power generation as if one panel on a string is producing at its minimum positive power tolerance it will force the rest of the string to produce at the same level.
At Hawking, we only use panels with a positive power tolerance, which means that a 400W panel with a +5% power tolerance could be up to a 420W panel. Optimizers allow you to capture those better-performing panels and prevent the lower-performing ones from dragging the rest of the system down.
The utilization of solar edge optimizers allows for each panel to produce at its maximum possible capacity without affecting the overall efficiency of the string, meaning that your panels will always be producing at their highest efficiency. On a traditional string system, if a single panel is sufficiently shaded, the entire string will shut down whereas optimization allows the shaded panel to not bring down the rest of your array.
PER PANEL MONITORING
Unfortunately, solar panels sometimes fail or degrade at a rate faster than specified by the manufacturers. In this situation, information is crucial to proving to the manufacturers that this panel is performing below specs.
With a standard string system, the only output that can be seen is the total generation of the system, with zero panel data being available, meaning that the only way to diagnose a faulty panel is to have a qualified solar installer come to the property and test each panel individually. Not only does this cost you as a customer hundreds of dollars, it provides zero historical data on the performance of the panel, meaning that you will be unable to discern when the panel stopped working and often why. This lack of information can often make a warranty claim much more difficult.
THE FRONIUS MONITORING DISPLAY
An optimized system monitors each panel individually, providing both live and historical data on your system, meaning that the second one of your panels stops producing below the recommended level, you will be able to submit a warranty claim with data to support it. All panel brands we supply accept this data as proof of warranty, streamlining the process immensely and getting your system back to 100% as soon as possible.
SolarEdge per panel monitoring display
SolarEdge optimizers also feature SafeDC which has the ability to detect electrical faults before they can cause damage to your systems, or in extreme cases, electrical fires. If a fault is detected each panel will be shut down to a safe 1V DC, meaning that fire is never possible on a SolarEdge system. This safety functionality is mandated on all solar installations in the US, unfortunately, it has yet to make it into Australian regulations.
To conclude, for the relatively small investment they require, optimizers add a significant amount of value to your solar installation. If you want to speak to one of our experienced designers about this technology, feel free to get in touch Here!
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