Solar panels produce DC (direct current) power. Now, you can also get AC solar panels. What’s the difference?
All PV solar panels use photovoltaic cells that produce DC power. Then, inverters are used to convert DC to AC power, so the electricity can be used in one’s home. There are currently several ways of configure solar panel arrays to integrate inverters with the system. One option is to string a group of panels together, and connect them to a large inverter that converts all the power at once. Recently, however, it has become common practice to install micro-inverters, or small inverters for each solar panel.
Micro-inverters have several advantages, including better optimization and efficiency, and the ability to monitor at the panel-level for power output and potential troubleshooting issues. If one panel is under-producing or has stopped working, it’s easy to tell which one. Online monitoring programs, such as the web-based monitoring interface offered by Enphase, mean that you can check the status of your solar array from anywhere in the world. In fact, Enphase even offers an iPhone app for remote, on the go monitoring.
The only disadvantage to microinverters is the fact that it generally takes longer to install micro-inverters alongside each solar panel, especially considering that many residential solar arrays consist of 30+ panels. But now, solar module manufacturers are beginning to introduce “AC Panels”, or solar panels with built-in micro-inverters. These panels will help to lower solar installation costs by streamlining the installation process. And since microinverters don’t need to be installed separately, installers benefit from the safety of not working on high voltage DC electricity. With lower labor and material costs, AC solar panels have potential to drive faster adoption of solar power and further drive down costs.
Homeowners can choose AC solar panels for their new solar installation. At Kenergy we offer several different brands of AC panels to choose from. Canadian Solar makes a 250 W panel with an integrated micro-inverter, and offers a 25-year warranty that covers the entire module. Consider AC panels when choosing the type of panels in your solar array. They are cost effective and may well be the future of solar installations.