What does a solar inverter do?

An inverter on the wall

What is an inverter?

A solar inverter is the brains of a solar energy system; it’s the most important part. It’s the is the part of the solar energy system that converts solar DC energy into AC useable energy for your property.

The higher the efficiency, the ‘better’ the system. An inverter has the ability to link to your own computer system and can provide real-time data on the energy being supplied and consumed and if there’s an error, all modern inverters can now send error reports and some supply weather reports for the next day.

An inverter also protects the energy grid from any over-voltage. It prevents others properties nearby from being affected by your over-voltage thereby protecting the grid. This could happen quite regularly in rural areas. The inverter will shut the system down rather than send it out to the grid.

Below is an example of a Fronius Inverter the Solar Energy team at Energy Makeovers installed at a Melbourne school.

A Fronius inverter installed

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Solar inverters in Australia

2010-2013 saw a large boom in the solar power industry in Australia as large rebates were introduced and the market swelled. This boom in demand did, unfortunately, decrease the quality of products imported in while regulations were lacking. For example, some solar customers found that after 2 years their inverters were failing or sometimes falling off the wall. Installers and manufacturers didn’t take into sea-air or consider weather conditions that can effect circuitry boards and which will affect properties in cities like Melbourne. The inverters and panels were getting corroded and some dropped off the wall.

Since then regulations have been tightened and much higher quality products are now imported into Australia.

One of the more recent solar energy system regulations requires that inverters have a monitoring system.  On lower-cost inverters this can be in the form of a flashing light and in higher quality systems, like Fronius, the inverter can send you updates on the performance of the energy system (yield data). Thanks to the technology inside an inverter it is usually the most expensive individual part of a solar energy system. Panels can seem to be more expensive as you order a larger number, but an inverter is the singularly most expensive part of a solar energy system.

Here are some examples of the yield data an inverter can supply:

inverter screenshots

With the yield data, your inverter can supply you can assess if everything is working correctly and reset if necessary, although some inverters are able to reset themselves. You can keep an eye on the energy your system is producing, make sure it’s not falling short and address any issues, when, and if, they appear.

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