Solar power that is generated from solar panels is great for reducing your environmental impact. However, there are additional features that you must also consider as part of your solar installation in order to develop a system that can connect to the grid and power your home.
Why do you need a Grid-tie Inverter?
Electricity that is generated from solar panels comes in the form of Direct Current (DC), which is not compatible with any of the appliance found in your home. All appliances use alternating current (AC) in order to operate. This includes your stove, your lightbulbs, a microwave or a television.
To solve this problem, most solar installation also include a grid-tie inverter that converts the DC from your solar panels into AC, which is then “tied” to the grid and enable you to receive a credit on your electrical bill.
Grid-tie inverters are also useful for any other form of renewable energy that is generated on a small scale. Micro-wind turbines and hydroelectricity projects also require a similar grid-tie inverter in order to reduce your electricity bill.
What are the specifics of a grid-tie inverter system?
As each electrical grid is unique, and has different characteristics, the grid-tie inverter must also be adjusted to match the unique characteristics of the local grid. If the inverter is not designed correctly for the appropriate grid that it is connecting to, higher levels of voltage can overload the grid if there are enough systems connected.
Grid-tie inverters are also a safety feature at times where there is a power outage. This is a law that prevents additional voltage from your renewable energy installation to contribute to the grid, as it runs the risk of injuring the utility workers who are working to repair the system. By disconnecting all systems from distributing voltage, workers are free from high voltage situations that could cause them severe injury.
What are the benefits of a grid-tie inverter?
Grid-tie inverters are designed in order to make it easy for someone with solar installation to receive a benefit for their installation. Without a grid-tie inverter, renewable energy projects would require battery storage to contain the energy that is generated from such a project. On top of that, in order to use that energy within any of your household appliances, you would also need an inverter, as batteries store and discharge electricity as direct current.
What do I need to know about Grid-tie Inverters?
There are several components and configurations of Grid-tie inverters, and knowing which components are necessary and the variations that exist for grid-tie inverters on the market is an important consideration. Most solar or renewable energy providers are generally aware of the specifics of your electrical grid, but a little background knowledge of these considerations will be helpful for understanding the operating procedure for your renewable energy project.
Rated Output Power
Measured in watts or kilowatts, and varies according to the voltage that is received from your renewable energy project.
This is an important consideration for what kind of voltage grid the inverter can connect to. Generally, for a inverter that is going to be used for residential use, the output voltage is rated at 240 Volts Alternating Current (VAC), whereas commercial inverters can range from 208 to 600 VAC.
This is the specific ratio of how much energy is consumed and how much energy is output. Like all appliances, a certain amount of energy is lost in the conversion of electricity from one form to another. Most of the energy that is lost in an inverter from converting DC to AC is lost in the form of heat. Most inverters operate at around 95% efficiency, and therefore resulting in greater amounts of energy to the grid.
Maximum Input Current
Not all inverters can utilize the same current, and some are better designed to handle a small solar installation over a larger solar array. If current generated from solar arrays is greater than the maximum input current, this energy is unused, and therefore lost.
Maximum Output Current
This is the maximum current that the inverter will deliver on a continuous basis. Different voltages will produce different currents, which is a product of the laws of electricity. Make sure that the output current from the inverter that is selected does not exceed that of the grid you are trying to connect to.
Peak Power Tracking Voltage
This is a measure of the range from which the maximum amount of power will be generated as a result of operating the inverter. This maximum amount will change according to the temperature, which makes it difficult to configure in regions with a high amount of variability in their climate.
This is the measure of the minimum voltage that is required for the inverter to begin delivering electricity to the grid. This is an important consideration for those with solar installations, as there is a certain amount of solar panels that are needed in order to generate this minimum amount. Without the right number of solar panels connected, this voltage may never be reached, and may result in limited amounts of energy going to the grid, and therefore a limited credit on your electricity bill.
This is the amount of protection that an inverter has towards dirt (first number) and water (second number), with higher numbers offering a higher protection. Generally, most inverters are installed outdoors, and therefore require a level of protection of IP45 or IP65. Make sure that your inverter has a similar rating, or else there may be issues with longevity.
Make sure that the grid-tie inverter you are purchasing has been approved for usage by the national standards council. This is a safety feature that all reputable brands have to go through in order to prevent any devastating consequences of the operation of your grid-tie inverter.
Grid Tie Inverter with Limiter
Grid-tie inverters generally come with a limiter, which is designed to prevent the grid tied inverter from exporting power into the grid. The limiter will determine the amount of loading that your house is producing, and will limit the power generated by the solar power to equal the loading of your home.
This is a useful tool for countries where consumers pay for contributing electricity to the grid. This is a problem generated by some systems, which do not always indicate the direction of power used by users, and power generated by solar installations counts as additional energy consumption. This is not a problem in the United States, Canada, or most European countries, but is nonetheless a technology that could be useful for controlling homes that are going off-grid.
Most grid-tie inverters last for 20 to 25 years before having to be replaced. Since they are not the major cost of a solar installation, it makes sense at the end of its lifetime to replace just the inverter, and continue to use the solar panels to continue generating savings for you.
In addition to this, the technology behind inverters may continue to improve, and might extend the lifetime of your next grid-tie inverter. If this was the case, you would be able to generate even greater savings.
Grid-tie inverters are a product that helps to give you the greatest return on investment, as well as the flexibility to generate power from your renewable energy project and not worry about additional wiring or battery storage.
These are just some of the details that you should consider in regards to the installation of a grid-tie inverter. This important component is necessary in order to benefit from the installation of solar panels on your roof. Make sure to ask your solar installer about this technology, and always make sure to source your products from a brand that you can trust.