Power optimizer for solar panels is a DC/DC converter that is connected to each solar panel in the PV system, turning them into smart modules. By constantly monitoring the maximum production capacity of each individual solar module, optimizers can increase your PV plant energy production – potentially increasing revenue and shortening system payback time. Simply put, the main benefit of power optimizer is that it maximizes the performance of each panel individually.
What are the benefits of power optimizers and why are they needed?
When installing solar panels, the panels are connected into groups or arrays. In the case of roof-mounted and in-roof panels, there are usually 12-20 solar panels in one group. If the productivity of one of these panels decreases (shadows from trees and clouds, dust, bird droppings, failures of PV components and other factors), then the productivity of the whole group decreases. Defective or shaded panels may produce 15 to 25 percent less solar energy than other panels, and in some cases up to 50 percent less. With the help of optimizers, each panel can be placed in a separate group, and the aim is to ensure that the productivity of each solar panel is as high as possible.
It is important to note that optimizers can also play a role in ensuring electrical safety. SolarEdge was one of the first to come on the market with optimizers, and their SafeDC function ensures that the high DC voltage of the modules is automatically reduced to a safe level when the inverter or mains power is switched off, thus ensuring maximum safety. Optimizers allow early detection of potential problems and malfunctions with solar panels.
Do I need optimizers?
Optimizers make the whole system more expensive, but there are times when an efficient solar plant cannot be built without them. If there is no shade on your roof and the panels are on only one side of the roof, power optimizers may not give you much gains. Consider using the optimizers, if:
- solar panels are installed on several sides of the roof and at different angles,
- the panels are partially or fully shaded at certain times,
- leaves, twigs or dust may get on the roof,
- you combine solar panels with different wattages.
If you live near fields, on the edge of a forest, or if there are tall trees in your or your neighbor’s garden, adding optimizers to your solar station is probably a smart move.
Optimizer availability and cost
Solarstone offers SolarEdge and Huawei optimizers. When using SolarEdge inverter, the use of optimizers is unavoidable, but their optimizers can also be used with other inverters. According to the manufacturer, the optimizer is compatible with all module types. Huawei’s optimizers, which only work with Huawei’s own inverters, have also hit the market. Huawei optimizer can be only connected to panels that need it, it is not necessary to connect optimizers to the whole system. Although, the minimum amount is 6 optimizers per circuit. Both are serious players, but Huawei’s devices are more wallet-friendly. TIGO from the USA also offers optimizers, but Solarstone does not resell their devices.
Optimizers are easy to install and have a relatively long lifespan. Most devices come with a 12-25 year warranty (SolarEdge and Huawei have 25 year warranty). The price of the SolarEdge optimizer is 56 € + VAT, while the price of the Huawei optimizer is 38 € + VAT (prices in Estonia). For the whole solar power plant, it can add up to a good amount, but in many cases this cost can be justified and recoup quickly.
Benefits of power optimizers include electrical safety and increased efficiency. Optimizers come at an additional cost, so take your time to analyze the necessity and potential wins.