Solar Power Systems for Condos - Micro Inverters!
A lot of people think that if they live in a condo, they can't get a solar power system, since their roof is shared property. This is no longer the case, with the invention of independently monitored microinverters. Even if you are the only one interested at the time, and have a small system installed, your neighbors can add to it at any time in the future without any additional cost or logistics to be worried about. The microinverters allow you to seamlessly distinguish the power production from each persons portion of the system without any special wiring.
You will come to find out in the following paragraphs, that the benefit of using micro inverters is not limited to condos. There is a benefit to using microinverter technology in any residential or commercial solar installation.
A standard photovoltaic system uses one "single point" inverter, which all of your solar panels tie into. This results in one high voltage DC string being inverted to AC in one large capacity inverter.
In a microinverter system, you have individual "mini" inverters behind each photovoltaic panel, which independently invert the much smaller amount of power being produced by a single panel.
Solar company Enphase, manufactures these state of the art inverters, which only certain solar contractors will install presently.
Advantages of Microinverters
The following are the big advantages given the consumer when installing a microinverter solar system.
Practically Eliminate Minor Shading Effects
With a single point inverter, if one panel is even partially shaded, it drastically reduces the power output of your entire string of panels. With a micro inverter system, since each panel is inverted independently, this effect is virtually eliminated, meaning the shading will only reduce the output of the shaded panel, instead of your whole string. This increases your system output by 5-25% over the course of time!
Individual Monitoring of Each Panel's Performance
This can not be done unless microinverters are used. Each microinverter sends its status independently, allowing you to monitor output from each and every panel in your system. Enphase microinverters communicate over the AC wires, so no additional cabling is needed! They send data back to a data hub which can be plugged into any outlet in your house to pick up the data coming from each of the inverters!
Enphase's web monitoring software shows relative power output by using color intensity in their graphic, in other words, the panel is black if no output, and gets to be a lighter and lighter shade of blue based on the amount of power it is putting out. Here is a screen shot of Enphase's "Enlighten" web interface, showing an early morning when the sun is still rising, where part of the panels are still shaded.
View a LIVE ENPHASE ENERGY SYSTEM
Extended Life Span
Even though solar panels are typically come with a 25 year warranty, single point inverters are usually only come with a warranty of 10-15 years. Single point inverters run very hot while they invert power for your entire system. While inverting power from only a single panel, microinverters only experience a fraction of the temperature increase that a single point inverter would. Heat drastically reduces an electronic devices life span, thus it makes sense that a microinverter would last much longer. In addition to the heat issue, Enphase has chosen many reliable components to allow your inverter to now last as long as the rest of your system. This alone, would be worth considering a microinverter setup.
Elimination of a Single Point Failure in Your Solar System
If you have a standard single point inverter and it fails, your entire system goes down until you replace it. If one solar panel suffers an open circuit, your entire string goes down. This is NOT the case with a microinverter system. If one of your microinverters goes down, or a single panel, only that one panel's output is effected. The rest of your system continues to operate as usual.
Solar Modules Can be Placed on Roofs Facing Different Directions
When solar panels are wired into a large string, they need to be the same type of panel, facing the same direction, so that they are receiving the same amount of sun. You can't wire up panels facing different directions with different tilts, unless you use microinverters. Microinverters completely take out the co-dependence between different panels, allowing you to do things that you couldn't do with a single point inverter installation. This is a very important feature if your desired roof section is not large enough to accommodate the size system you want to install, now giving you the option to install panels on different parts of your roof that may not be facing the same direction.
Ability to Effortlessly Expand System Size in the Future
If your power demand increases in the future and you decide to add some capacity to your system, just add more microinverters and panels, and that's it! In a single point inverter system, if you did not account for system expansion in the future when you made your initial purchase, you not only have to add the new panels, and potentially resize your strings, but will have to potentially upgrade your inverter to accommodate the extra power, which would be a huge expense, not to mention the fact that you will now have an extra single point inverter which will be difficult to sell now that it is used.
Automatic Notification of a Potential Solar Panel Issue
If there was an issue with a panel or an inverter, the Enphase communication network will let you know via email! This happens completely autonomously, so theoretically, you never have to check the health of your system.
Time Lapse Video of Your Individual Solar Panel Power Output
The web monitoring software automatically produces a time lapse over the period of a day or week, which allows you to see a rapid color change over your panels as the time progresses. Very impressive, and quite informative in regards to system performance.