typical solar inverter installation

A typical solar inverter installed

The solar inverter in a typical Adelaide residential solar installation is a key component of the system. As discussed in the solar panel trends article, in recent years solar panel technology has focused increasingly at increasing panel efficiency yields – in other words trying to get the maximum electrical wattage per square metre out of the panels.
As the solar panels produce ‘direct current’ electricity, it needs to be transformed into the standard a.c. electricity we use at home. This is the primary role of the solar inverter. Design of solar inverters has changed over the last five years or so, Virtually all inverters use modern ‘switch-mode’ principals in their electronic design to avoid loss of power (from the solar panels) and have done away with transformers that can be energy in-efficient and costly. Switch-mode electronic design has, for example been used in computer power supply design now for over 20 years, so it is a tried and tested technology.

M.P.P.T. – Maximum Power Point Tracking is a term you will see when reading specifications of solar inverters. M.P.P.T. is smart technology in action! Basically the role of  Maximum Power Point Tracking is to ensure maximum power is output from your solar panels. Solar panel power output is a function of the solar radiation (ie: sunshine) striking the panels and the ambient temperature. Basic electrical theory dictates that electrical power = voltage x current. As the temperature and amount of sunlight falling on the panels change throughout the day, the voltage and current output from the panels change accordingly. The M.P.P.T. function of an inverter is basically to change the ‘electrical load’ that the inverter ‘sees’ at selected intervals, so as to maximise the power output from the solar system. Adelaide solar installers offering tried and tested brands of inverters like Aurora, SMA, Xantrex report relatively low failure rates. Some of the Chinese made inverters have a more chequered history of reliability, so as discussed elsewhere on this site,when considering solar quotes ask about extended warranties, what happens should a warranty claim need to be made, what documentation is supplied with the inverter (user manuals etc) and ask for a detailed explanation of inverter function / readouts once installed. Again, ask the right questions!