There is a huge variety of inverters in the market. A decade ago in the 2000’s, the market only had inverters from established companies in Europe like SMA, Fronius, Schneider, Bosch and Siemens and Outback inverters in the US. These inverters had been around for decades and so most of the problems that are common occurrence in inverters were ironed out. In the last 10 to 15 years, domestic solar installations grew exponentially. The rise of Solar PV required capable and efficient inversion of DC output to AC. High inverter prices had to come down as a result to make the industry more lucrative.
This allowed several small medium enterprises that produced inverters to mushroom. Most of these new companies originated from China.
Reverse Engineering was applied in abundance. Inverters from European companies were replicated in Asia, however the quality wasn’t up to the original design. These new Chinese inverters were made available at almost a 3rd of the cost of the European Inverters. For the sake of convenience, we will call these new breed of inverters tier 2 inverters because of their inferior quality. Chinese designs slowly and gradually caught up with their European counter parts.
This competition has resulted in two things. Firstly, it drove down the prices of European inverter. Today good quality Chinese Inverters cost around 75% of the European inverters price. Secondly it pushed the European Inverters to advance the technology further.
The new wave of research and development has yielded fruit in the form of transformerless inverters. These new breed of inverters have broken free from the high frequency transformers and low frequency transformer topologies. It has reduced the prices further down.
More information on transformerless inverters can be accessed from this link.
Furthermore, because of strict regulations, the European inverters are not only designed and manufactured on high standards but also their safety features are unparalleled.
Some of the features that set apart the European inverters are as follows:
- Most European Inverters have built -in safety features such as DC disconnect, reverse polarity protection and Ground Fault Protection.
- Many Inverters have more than one MPPT string capability. This allows them to optimize power in designs with different roof orientations, shading of one or two strings, or the use of residual modules
- They are NEC 2014 compliant and therefore online inverters have a shutdown capability in case of a power outage. This is done to protect grid workers from getting a shock.
- New inverters are also Wi-fi capable. They can not only be controlled remotely but can also provide data in real time about the output.
Find below the guide on prices of inverters of similar capacity (3KW) . This data reveals that European Inverters are slightly pricier than Asian Inverter but also have the above mentioned features. Hybrid Inverters are generally more expensive than Grid-Tie inverters.
|Brand Name||Country||Capacity (kW)||Input Voltage (DC)||Type||Price £||Maximum Efficiency|
|Sunshine Power Inverter||China||3||10-15||Off Grid||439||85%|
|Fronius Primo||Austria||3.8||410||Grid Tie||1060||96.70%|
|SMA Sunny Boy||Germany||3.1||155-480||Grid Tie||1024||97.20%|
|Outback Power||USA||3||48 V||Hybrid||1390||92%|
Note the prices mentioned above are only guide prices for comparison. These prices may change subject to market conditions. Further costs will also be incurred in transportation of the equipment.
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