Solar microinverters may be the smallest of the power conversion class, but new commercial models can handle more power than ever before. Instead of a one-to-one approach, manufacturers are now making microinverters that can connect to four solar panels.
APsystems, Hoymiles and Huayu are all offering four-in-one, three-phase microinverters with varying power levels. The APsystems QT2 comes in 1,728- and 1,800-W outputs, the Hoymiles HM has 1,200- and 1,500-W options and Huayu’s HY comes in 1,600- and 2,000-W outputs.
APsystems started making quad microinverters for residential projects almost a decade ago but just released the three-phase option for commercial applications. While microinverters were once double the cost of string inverters, they’re much more competitively priced now, especially when numerous solar panels can send power through a single unit.
Along with the cost parity, APsystems was intrigued by the growth potential of solar on corporate rooftops across the country.
“There’s a huge opportunity to develop a product that’s really going to help in that endeavor. Because they are an MLPE system, [microinverters] are far more effective at producing energy than traditional string inverter systems,” said Jason Higginson, senior director of marketing for APsystems.
Microinverters also satisfy rooftop fire safety requirements due to their lower overall voltage, eliminating the additional cost of installing a rapid shutdown box on each module.
“The fact that you can combine four microinverters into one…it’s much more competitive these days on a dollar-per-watt basis,” Higginson said.
Manufacturers like APsystems are able to charge less for quad microinverters due to their shared componentry with other products on the line.
“They’re manufacturing one inverter and it serves four PV modules. Compare that to the time and equipment and energy and labor that’s needed to make four individual microinverters that serve one panel each — it’s a strong reduction in the overall manufacturing cost. It helps make it more competitive,” Higginson said.
The QT2 microinverters come with dual MPPTs, allowing project owners to view production and mitigate shade on two pairs of modules. Even on flat roofs with no obstructions, microinverters can eke out more production if the panels get dirty.
“The question that I ask the commercial installers is, ‘Do you have any dust or dirt? Does it ever get snowed on or bird droppings?’ Any of these can bring down the performance of a string inverter array. Microinverters help to mitigate that issue by not allowing what’s affecting one or a series of PV modules to affect the entire array’s performance,” Higginson said.
APsystems doesn’t have plans to go bigger than four-in-one at the moment. But Hoymiles is advertising a new six-in-one microinverter, pushing the limits of mightier-than-ever microinverters.
This story is part of SPW’s 2023 Trends in Solar. Read all of this year’s trends here.