Solar energy may seem like a miracle in itself – producing clean, free electricity from the sun’s rays. But behind every solar array there are some complex components that turn sunlight into the reliable electricity your family can use. Here are two ways that happens.
Converting Solar Energy to Electricity: Two Ways
PV solar panels produce energy that is direct current (DC), while your home’s wiring is run on alternating current (AC). To convert DC to AC, you need an inverter for your solar array. Solar systems use one of two methods to produce the right type of current for your needs. The first type of solar system relies on a central inverter to take power from the panels and convert to AC. Depending on the size of your system, you may need several inverters, which are large and take up space near your electric panel. The second type of system relies on AC solar panels with micro-inverters attached to each panel. These systems allow the panels to produce AC power directly at the source, making the system more efficient in generating electric for your home or business.
Popularity of Conventional vs. AC Solar Panels
Conventional solar panels – those that rely on central inverters – have dominated the US solar market for years; in 2010, conventional systems accounted for 90% of the solar systems in the United States. As the technology improved and prices shrunk, the share of AC panels has risen. By 2014, 42% of solar installations that year relied on micro-inverters (source).
5 Benefits of AC Solar Panels with Micro-Inverters
1. More efficient
With a conventional solar array, the solar panels are connected in a series string, with the energy flowing to the central inverters. Because of the dynamics of this setup, the output is limited by the lowest producing panel. For homes with panels on multiple roof lines or is covered by shade during the day, this drastically reduces your efficiency.
With an AC solar array, each panel is optimized to produce the most energy it can. So, one panel can be producing at only 50% while the rest of the system is producing at 100%.
2. Faster Installation
Because we are not installing central inverters or connecting any additional equipment, an AC solar array can be installed up to 20% faster than a conventional array. This means less labor and the sooner you get to producing clean electricity.
3. Less Equipment
Central inverters normally get installed close to your utility meter, either on the outside of your home or just inside a garage. These inverters are unsightly and can take up valuable real estate. With an AC system, most of the system’s equipment is included within the panels.
4. Precision Monitoring
While DC arrays can track production of the system as a whole, AC solar arrays can be monitored down to the individual panel. With remote monitoring software and apps, you can even see how much your solar panels are producing from anywhere with an internet connection.
5. Extended Warranty
Central inverters are typically the first component to wear down in a solar array, and may need to be replaced during the life of the system. Since the micro-inverters are part of an AC panel, they are covered by the panel manufacturer’s warranty. At Earthlight Technologies, we install SunPower’s AC panels, which come with SunPower’s best-in-class 25-year warranty. If there is ever an issue with a panel or micro-inverter, the panel will be replaced.
If you are looking for an efficient, compact system backed by the industry’s best warranty, consider a SunPower AC solar panel array for your home.