Solar electric inverters are crucial for solar panel systems. Without them, the system cannot generate electricity. Solar panels are typically made of silicon, which provides a semiconductor surface. The panel is located inside a metal frame, which is enclosed by glass. When light particles, photons, hit the silicon of each individual solar panel, the electrons become excited. This produces photovoltaic (PV) charges, which then produce direct current (DC). The panel's wiring captures this current, and the solar electric inverter converts DC to alternating current (AC). The solar electric inverter connects the solar panel system to the existing electricity meter, or it can transmit the electricity to the grid.
Direct current flows in one direction. Household appliances use AC, so it must be transformed. Solar electric inverters accomplish this through four steps:
The inverter guides direct current through its internal transformer;
The inverter transformer lowers the voltage and switches to AC;
The direct current passes through two or more transistors;
The transistors quickly turn on and off, providing power to the two different sides of the transformer.
The connection between solar electric inverter and the power grid is becoming increasingly popular. It is connected during the system's wiring installation. If a customer's solar system produces more electricity than they need, it is transmitted to the utility meter, and then to the grid. By using a on-grid solar inverter (also called grid-tied), they can establish credits to reduce their bills when they need the grid (called net metering), or they can get a feed-in tariff based on their location. The benefits for customers are not only the reduction of their electricity bills, but essentially that the grid acts as their battery storage.
It is also possible to add batteries to this type of system and store energy yourself, but customers need a battery-specific inverter to convert the electricity from AC to DC for storage and discharge. Off-grid solar inverter systems are directly connected to residential or commercial sites, working with the building's power supply. Customers cannot connect to the power grid, which means they require an expensive battery to store excess energy. This may not be enough to ensure that energy is always available, so having a generator as a backup is a good idea.
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