Are String Inverters the Future of Solar?

June 30, 2016

At the brink of innovation, digitalization is often waiting to be harnessed. Digitalization gives users greater control over processes and designs crucial to the success of energy efficiency measures. Solar power has emerged as a frontrunner in the race to reduce human dependance on depleting natural resources like coal and natural gas. The rise in solar power is of no surprise due to its reliability, affordability, and cleanliness. The future of solar lies in further control through digitalization, but is the string inverter the final answer?Solar industries have experienced a stubborn shift from central inverters to a more distributed system comprised of string inverters. Greater performance control of a solar system comes at the expense of more sophisticated technology and higher costs.A fair share of industry providers of inverters are hedging their bets in the development of string inverters while relying on the performance of central inverters. Huawei, a leader in information and communication technology, has taken a drastically different route: sole production of string inverters. With Huawei's commitment to string inverters, we are forced to grapple with the future of solar.A claim that the future of solar lies solely in string inverters is disingenuous given the technological potential of micro inverters. String inverters will most likely dominate the near future due to compromise. Micro inverters have the potential to invert at the panel level offering greater performance control but are expensive. Central inverters dominate the market with stabilized pricing.Distributing the inversion points for solar systems has a couple main advantages, which is why string inverters are becoming more popular and why we think that micro inverters will become more popular after some technological advancement and price decreases. Firstly, it makes the system more robust to panel level losses like shading and soiling. Secondly, it makes it easier to identify where problems are occurring in the system and prevents one point of failure from causing system wide problems. Ease of installation is also a benefit, but it only really matters once.The advancements in solar technology is important to the future of BlocPower. With one of our goals being to create a microgrid down the road, a keen eye on the trends in inverter technology are a must. So although string inverters may not be the final destination for solar technology in the future, they are definitely a step in the right direction.

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