What is a Power Optimizer?

By Philip Trapp
07 February 2017
What is a Power Optimizer and is it Right For You- (1).png

When deciding on solar equipment it’s important to know what options are available. Different equipment suits different situations better. A power optimizer is ideal for situations where shading is prevalent or when your solar system falls on multiple roof surfaces with different orientations. Let’s dive into the details!

A power optimizer is a combination of both a string and micro inverter. It is a module-level power electronic (MLPE) device that increases the solar panel system’s energy output by constantly measuring the maximum power point tracking (MPPT) of each individual solar panel and adjusts DC characteristics to maximize energy output. The panel optimizers relay performance characteristics via a monitoring system to facilitate operations and any necessary solar panel maintenance.

The Solar Industry's Top Power Optimizer

The market leader in DC optimizers is SolarEdge. SolarEdge’s monitoring portal allows module-level monitoring, free of any additional charge to the installer, customer, or owner. Effectively, optimizers allow for flexible solar system designs and layouts - with multiple panel orientations, tilts, azimuths, and module types in a given string.

If the site of your roof or ground-mounted solar PV system is shaded, a system with panel optimizers will yield greater energy harvest than a system paired with a string inverter system. This is because when just one or several panels in a string of panels is shaded, their output is SolarEdge Power Optimizer.png
diminished to the “lowest common denominator” of that string. While an optimizer-inverter system may be slightly more expensive than a string inverter system (2-3% more for the entire system), the financial gains from increased energy harvest should offset the additional cost, and are usually worth the investment if your solar project site has multiple azimuths, tilts, or is shaded.

Power optimizers like SolarEdge also come with built-in safety features. One such feature is a rapid-shutdown response when the grid goes down, intended to make servicing or accessing the system safer for installers and emergency personnel like firefighters. As the National Electric Code (NEC) surrounding solar electrical installation undergoes new iterations, MLPE such as power optimizers will play an important role in making solar installations safer to work around and easier to service.

Effectively, solar panel optimizers like SolarEdge offer many of the same benefits of microinverters. Optimizer systems like SolarEdge tend to be slightly less expensive than Enphase microinverters, especially as the system size increases. One key thing to note is that most power optimizers, like SolarEdge, carry a manufacturer’s warranty of 25 years. The SolarEdge inverter unit carries a manufacturer’s warranty ranging from 12-25 years - note that this is longer than most string inverter warranties (usually 10 years).

Are Power Optimizers Right For Your Solar Panels?

When thinking about your solar PV system, one should be informed about all the options they have in terms of solar panel and inverter equipment. Your Pick My Solar account manager can help you decide what type of inverter is best for your project, whether that’s a string, micro-, or power optimizer inverter system!

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