Power optimizer and microinverter companies are joining with module manufacturers to offer more integrated solutions to the solar market. But what is the difference between these systems and what advantages do they offer solar contractors?
“The microinverter is converting DC into AC, while a power optimizer performs DC to DC conversion, and therefore an inverter (to convert DC to AC) is needed in a grid-connected system,” said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, senior technical manager at Jinko Solar. “Also, optimizers tend to be more efficient, while microinverters tend to have more flexibility.”
Gonzalez added that buying a solar module with an integrated electronic offers some advantages for installers rather than buying them separately.
“From a logistics point of view, there are no extra boxes, shipping, warehousing or extra part numbers needed,” he said.
Brian Cox of Axitec Solar added that from a construction standpoint, there is no additional hardware required, no pre-configurations and no additional communication connections required during the installation with integrated modules.
“Less wiring and avoiding having to install the electronics separately makes installation easier,” he said.
Don Hammond, vice president of sales and marketing at Mage Solar, also sees the advantages integrated modules offer solar installers.
“Installers love that integrated panels just plug in to each other without any high voltage DC. This makes installation much safer and panels can be shut down individually if needed,” he said. “Because of their plug-and-play technology, integrated systems can be expanded without problems. This usually eliminates any initial consumer hesitations because the systems can be scaled to accommodate any budget.
Usually, integrated modules offer the same warranty conditions as a traditional PV module, about 25 years, said ET Solar product manager Zhaoyang Zhang. However, the price can run a bit higher.
Still, while the initial hard costs might be higher in some cases, Hammond says they can be quickly recouped after considering the saved installation labor and time.
“It’s really hard to think of an actual disadvantage these modules might present,” Hammond said. “It’s a relatively young technology and so maybe one of the challenges for the industry is to create more awareness and provide better information about the ease of use and installation for integrated modules.” SPW
Some integrated models:
Andalay and Enphase
Axitec and Tigo Energy
ET Solar and SolarBridge
JA Solar and Tigo Energy or SolarEdge
Jinko Solar and Tigo Energy or SolarEdge
Mage Solar and SolarBridge
Trina Solar and Tigo Energy
Upsolar and Tigo Energy
Yingli and Tigo Energy