Do you know that most of our electrical appliances run on alternating current (AC)?
It is the inverter that does this job, it converts the direct current from the solar panels into an alternating current and runs our electrical appliances.
Nowadays, you find AC solar panels available in the market that generate AC current from their ends thus eliminating the need of central inverter that is required in a conventional solar power system.
What are AC Solar Panels?
The AC solar panels are like the same conventional solar panels that are available in the market but with one difference, these panels have small inverter called micro-inverter attached at their back.
This small inverter takes the DC current from the panel and convert it into AC current then and there itself.
Read: Difference between DC and AC current
Therefore, you don't need a central inverter that we generally find in any normal solar power system.
AC Solar Panels improve the overall performance of the system but are costlier than the DC solar panels.
Advantages of AC Solar Panels
1) Better Performance under shade:
In standard solar power system, the string of panels are connected to one central inverter.
If the surface of anyone panel in a particular string gets shaded due to shadow of tree or any nearby building, the out of complete string is affected and you get less current for your electrical appliances.
While in the case of AC solar panels, if any of the panel gets shaded then the output of other AC solar panels in that string are not affected.
You can see in the above example that how shading of single panel has reduced the string output (all 3 panels) to 65% in the case of the standard solar power system
in the case of the string of AC solar panels, only the output of one module is affected (reduced to 65% due to shade), the other 2 in the string are performing at the fullest.
2) Easy Monitoring:
Nowadays, you'll see micro-inverters of the AC solar panels come with built-in communication system that enables you to remotely monitor the output of every single module on the real time basis.
You can even detect and can trace down any fall in the performance in module.
That means you can rectify the fault much faster and your system can resume to normal operations in less time.
If I talk about standard solar panels then we need to install all of them together in particular direction, orientation and tilt, so that all of them can be connected with the central inverter.
In short, you cannot install one panel at place while at another end of the roof as in that case you would be needing 2 inverters.
But it is possible with AC solar panels.
As these have micro-inverters embedded in them, you can put them anywhere without impacting the performance of other panels in the system.
This is good for roofs where you have shade-free area in patches, you can place AC modules in different locations and orientation and can still get the maximum power to run your electrical appliances.
Moreover, each micro-inverter in the panel is attached with MPPT solar charge controller that is designed to extract the maximum power from the panel, leading to increase in power generation by another 10%.
4) Easy to increase the size:
The size of the standard solar power system that uses DC solar panels is more or less fixed due to the limiting capacity of the central inverter.
The expansion of such system is not that easy.
the size of the solar power system using AC modules can easily be extended as when required as there is no central inverter to get over-burdened.
You just need to add extra AC solar panels that meet your increased energy needs.
Moreover, they don't require all that wiring material that DC solar panels need to get connected with central inverter, saving you on labor cost and material cost.
In that way, it makes installation easier and fast
Disadvantages of AC Solar Panels
1) The main downside of the AC solar modules is that the micro-inverters attached at the back make them a costly product and paying an upfront price gives home-owner a little jolt.
But their ease of installation, saving on labor & material cost, and improved performance are the reasons for home-owners to give them a shot.
2) Although, the micro-inverters are sheltered under the solar panels but still are exposed to the extreme weather conditions like heavy rain, wind, freezing cold, high temperatures, etc. increase their risk of getting damaged.
But they come with 25 years warranty, means any defect will be rectified or the product will be replaced, ensuring you trouble free operations for 25 years.
3) It is difficult to detect the fault and service the micro-controller when to the string (central) inverter in the standard solar power system.
You have dozens of micro-controllers in the system and in order to detect the faulty one, one has to check all the micro-inverters.
It is time consuming and costly too.
But the micro-controllers with embedded communication system let you know faulty one on real time basis.
Thus saving you time by eliminating the need of checking other controllers that are working fine.
List of AC Solar Panels in the market
Enphase is a global energy leader that manufactures solar micro-inverters that has partnered with 5 companies to jointly produce AC solar panels.
Is AC Solar Panel right for you?
The solar panel manufacturers are coming up with innovative products by combining related technologies together.
AC solar panels are one of those products.
The cost-benefit analysis should be done to find the attractiveness of the AC solar panels for the next 25 years.
If you're a homeowner who is interested in going solar soon then ask your solar installer to provide 2 different quotes one with conventional (DC) solar panels and another with AC solar panels.
Then compare their costs and the benefits they'll give over next 25 years.
Choose the one that is passing more benefits over its lifetime.