Solar energy is an exciting technology. You harness the power of the sun to power your home or business, keeping lights and appliances running when loadshedding hits! You can even build in the middle of nowhere and use solar energy to power everything, letting people in remote and rural areas enjoy the benefits of electricity. But as a relatively new technology that can be used in many situations, they sometimes need a little more care than just plug and play. That is where using power optimisers becomes important!
What is a solar optimiser?
A power optimiser or solar optimiser is a component that can be added into your solar power system. This component is installed on individual solar panels and makes use of something called maximum power point tracking (MPPT). This technology tracks the maximum power of each panel in real time, smoothing the DC electricity generated by each panel before it is sent to the solar inverter. As a result of this, more electricity is processed by your inverter!
How does an optimiser work?
In an ideal world, everyone would have a large space to put all of their solar panels, with no shade from nearby buildings or trees at any point in the day. But we aren’t working in ideal conditions. Solar panels could spend a portion of the day in the shade. Sometimes solar panels are placed in different orientations to the sun, depending on the roof type. Panels age over time due to the sun’s harsh weathering effects. A panel could get cracked by hail, a stone, or a flock of birds could decide to relieve themselves on it. These are just some of the many factors that could cause your solar panels to provide less energy.
There is where a power optimiser comes in. They look at each panel individually, collecting information on the output voltage and peak efficiency and ensuring that the array of panels is operating as efficiently as possible. In one study, it was found that just having 9% of a solar panel array in shade could cause a 54% power loss!
Using a solar optimiser is a great benefit if you have a roof with multiple angles or will have partially shaded panels.
Because so much data is being collected, your system could be connected to the cloud to allow real-time updates on the performance of your solar setup. If there is a problem with any of the panels, you will be able to pick it up quickly.
Another advantage is you could use a smaller solar inverter, which tend to be cheaper. Your inverter needs a voltage capacity that matches the total potential output of all the panels and optimisers.
Compared to a microinverter setup, having one optimiser fail won’t stop that solar panel from producing electricity. It will just produce less. In the case of a failed microinverter, no DC power will flow through.
A disadvantage of being a newer technology, power optimisers need to be paired with matching solar inverters, meaning you need newer model inverters for it to work.
Solar optimisers also increase the cost of a solar setup, due to installing an optimiser for every single panel. While cheaper than using microinverters, it costs more than a traditional string inverter solar panel system.
Is it worth it?
If your solar panels experience time in the shade, or you have panels on roofs with different orientations, the increase in efficiency offered by solar optimisers is definitely worth the cost of the modules and their installation. Being able to monitor your solar panels in real-time per panel allows for quick troubleshooting and problem solving, and you will get the most out of your solar investment.
Contact us today if you are interested in getting the most out of your solar setup, or want to start your solar journey.