Micro Inverters – Are They Ready for Australia's Harsh Climate?
As a home performance professional, you're probably always looking for new products and services to offer your clients. If you're working with solar, chances are that you've been hearing a lot about micro inverters. If you are located in Australia, however, you should know that micro inverters have many significant downsides that may make them unsuitable for harsh Australian climates.
Think of a micro inverter as a much smaller version of a regular solar inverter. They are basically designed to work with an individual solar panel whereas one normal sized inverter is used across an array of panels.
Before investing in any or offering them to your customers, you should do some research about some of the risks posed by micro inverters. By understanding the drawbacks of micro inverters, you will also be able to educate your customers and provide the best service.
As solar energy is playing a bigger part in home performance contracting, we’ll see more and more new technologies being introduced into the consumer market. Let’s take a more objective look at micro inverters specific to Australian conditions.
Why All the Interest in Micro Inverters?
If micro inverters aren't suitable for Australian weather conditions, why are they being so heavily promoted? In some situations, micro inverters do offer some compelling benefits. Under certain circumstances, they offer increased energy harvesting, arc protection, shade minimisation, and eliminate the need to run direct-current (DC) cabling.
On paper, these benefits sound excellent. In reality, however, they may be overshadowed by many significant drawbacks. Unfortunately, some solar power professionals and customers get so swept away by the promise of these components that they fail to do any additional research.
What are the Drawbacks?
While highlighting the advantages of micro inverters, many companies fail to mention that they just aren't suitable in extreme weather conditions. The weather is harsh in many parts of Australia, so micro inverters simply aren't ideal.
A few of the most significant drawbacks of micro inverters, especially when they're used in Australia include:
The technology is still largely unproven. Micro inverters are still relatively new. They are unproven in general over the long term, and even less is known about how they function in harsh Australian climates.
They are very expensive. Micro inverters can be very expensive, and the cost isn't often justified by the results. It would be one thing if micro inverters were really affordable or if they provided a long list of amazing benefits.
They can't stand the heat. Most micro inverters are only rated to 65 degrees. As you may know, roofs in Australia can easily get hotter than that. This can have two effects: they may cease to function at these high temperatures and it may significantly reduce their lifespan.
Most don't have on-site warranties. With many solar power components, it's possible to swap things out easily when they fail under warranty. Because micro inverters are installed on rooftops, though, this is very difficult (and expensive). Someone has to climb onto the roof to diagnose the problem and to replace damaged or malfunctioning parts.
They have numerous failure points: Micro inverters introduce many failure points to a solar system. On top of this, making repairs is expensive because they are not easy to access.
They may not work well with solar panels: In relation to the typical solar panel, the MPPT voltage range on a micro inverter is quite high, which means that the solar panel may not supply enough voltage particularly if it is shaded.
If you want to provide the best products and services to your customers (and especially if you are located in Australia), you should seriously consider all the benefits and downfalls of micro inverters before using them.
This article was written by the team at Infinite Energy, one of Australia’s fastest growing solar power companies.
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