Frequently Asked Questions | SolarEdge
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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs
FAQs

Why should I choose solar as my energy source?

Solar power is both cost-effective and sustainable.
In many locations, the cost of solar energy is already lower than buying from the grid.
Solar is freely available and abundant. The amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth in just an hour is more than the amount of power consumed by the whole world in a year.

How do solar energy systems work?

Solar energy systems work by collecting the sunlight and converting it into electricity. This is done in two stages. Firstly, photons, particles of light, hit the cells in the solar panel thus knocking electrons free from atoms. This creates the current needed to produce direct current (DC) electricity.

The second stage is then converting DC electricity to alternating current (AC) electricity – the electrical current that the homes and grid use. To do so, the DC current is fed into a solar inverter where it is converted to alternating current (AC), which is used to produce electricity. 

What is the cost of solar power?

The cost of solar power depends on a variety of factors: location, the availability of government subsidies or tax rebates, and the size of the household and its power needs.

The best way to understand the cost of solar power is to use the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) measurement as it can compare different types of electricity generation on a consistent basis. LCOE can be equated by dividing the sum of the energy costs over the system’s lifetime by the sum of electrical energy produced over the systems lifetime. Ideally, the LCOE of a solar energy system is less than or equal to the cost of buying power from the electric grid. Australia, among many other countries, has for the most part already reached grid parity, which is when the LCOE of solar is less than that of the grid. While this is in part due to increasing electricity prices, a large contributor is the declining prices of solar energy equipment, making going solar that much more affordable and accessible.

What is the difference between grid-tied and off-grid solar energy systems?

Grid-tied solar energy is when the PV system is connected to the utility grid and the electricity it generates is fed into the grid. Off-grid solar energy is when the energy is either used immediately or stored onsite for later use, but it is not fed into the grid.

What are the components of a solar energy system?

A basic solar energy system consists of solar panels and an inverter. Solar panels collect solar energy while inverters, acting as the brain of the solar energy system, manage energy production and grid interaction.
To increase PV production levels, advanced solar energy systems also include power optimisers, which connect to each solar panel and maximise their individual output. In addition to managing panels’ energy production, power optimisers provide constant data from each panel for module-level monitoring. Monitoring is another aspect of advanced PV system that is responsible for tracking and providing high-resolution insight into the system’s performance, including consumption, self-consumption, battery storage, and more.
The system may also include batteries, energy meters, and other smart connected devices. Batteries can be added to a solar energy system in order to store energy for later use, and energy meters measure energy production or usage. There is also a range of IoT devices available for solar energy systems, like smart water heaters, which can increase self-consumption and energy independence.

What are the different types of inverters?

Solar inverters are electronic devices that act as the brain of solar energy systems. Their original and main function is to take the direct current (DC) generated by solar panels and convert it into alternating current (AC), to either be fed into the grid or used in the home.

 

The second important function of the inverter is the maximum power point tracking (MPPT). This function is basically an algorithm that is responsible for finding the point at which the maximum amount of power can be generated from all the PV panels in a single string. However, over the years, the inverter’s role has expanded and today they are responsible for many other functions, such as safety, communications, monitoring, smart energy management, and more.
There are three basic types of inverters: basic string inverters, micro-inverters, and DC-optimised inverters.

 

String inverters were the industry standard for residential solar energy systems until recently. True to their name, string inverters track the maximum power point function at the string level. This means that if one panel has decreased performance, it will pull down the performance of all the other panels in that string.

 

Micro-inverters are shrunken down inverters and placed behind each panel. With micro-inverters both the DC/AC conversion and MPPT take place at the panel level. This allows the harnessing of more solar energy, increased safety, some more design flexibility, and panel-level monitoring. The drawback to this option is that it requires placing sensitive electronics that are needed for DC/AC conversion on the roof, which can increase the need for maintenance.

 

DC-optimised inverters were introduced to the market a bit under ten years ago and are quickly becoming the new industry gold standard. This type of system separates the inverter's functionality. The DC/AC conversion is kept at the system level, but the MPPT tracking is moved to panel level. This means that each panel can perform at its highest possible point.

 

By moving the MPPT to the panel level, DC optimized inverters offer a number of advantages:

  1. There is a lot more flexibility in how the system can be designed (more panels can be added on the roof and more roof types can support solar).
  2. High definition monitoring down to the panel level.
  3. Increased safety as the DC voltage can be decreased to safe levels during maintenance or during emergency situations.

 

Are solar energy systems safe?

Yes, solar energy systems are safe. There are some systems that are safer than others. For instance, systems that enable module-level shutdown meet some of the stricter safety requirements that have been established around the world. Since safety evolves in every industry and there are different safety requirements around the world, it is crucial to use only reputable companies to install and maintain solar energy systems.

Do I need monitoring for my solar energy system?

For years, solar energy systems would be installed on roofs and system owners would not have any real insight into the performance of their investment. Recently, monitoring has become an increasingly important part of solar energy systems in order to view and improve performance.

As with any other big investment, it is important to know how it performs. With a solar-monitoring system, it is possible to have peace of mind that the system is performing at an optimal level and that energy bills will be reduced to achieve a maximum return on investment. Some monitoring systems are offered free as part of the inverter system, while others will need to be added on at a cost.

Can I add a battery to my system for increased self-consumption or backup?

Yes. Because the inverter manages the energy, it is important to install an inverter that can support a battery. It is also advisable to install one that is future-compatible in case there is a need to add a battery at a later date.

There are a variety of considerations that need to be taken into account when adding a battery, e.g. battery capacity, charging and discharging rate, power rating, long-term warranty (for indoor and outdoor use), and DC versus AC coupling.

AC coupling is when energy from the solar energy system is converted from DC to AC and then back to DC for battery storage. This is not the most efficient way to store energy, since energy is lost every time that it is converted. However, with DC coupling, there are no energy conversions between the solar energy production and energy storage. This means that more energy is stored for later use, leading to reduced electric bills.

In what other ways can I increase my energy independence with a solar energy system?

A range of smart energy management solutions can be used with solar energy systems. More solar energy can be used in the home by installing smart plugs to turn on appliances, pool pumps, hot water heating, and more during the day when consumption is generally low and solar energy production is high.

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