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Dueling Solar Panels: And the Winner Is . . .

Category: Solar Panels

A Solar Module Smackdown in Colorado

This week SolarTown is on assignment in Colorado for a solar smackdown. The residential solar energy system that we are looking at is not large - 3kW - but is comprised of 6 different solar modules. Yes, six different modules. Additionally, the solar installation is using two different inverter types - Enphase micro-inverters and one PV Powered 1100 central inverter. Why do this? Quite frankly, nothing beats a spec sheet like a real world test. In the end most installers are only as good as the arrays they've built. Installers can get stuck on one or two panels and there is much to gain from building a system with off-the-shelf parts and telling the tale.

The Solar Module Competitors in this Smackdown

This array is comprised of the following solar modules:

  • 1. 2-Solon 220s w/Enphase M190 micro-inverters
  • 2. 2-Trina 230s w/Enphase M190 micro-inverters
  • 3. 2-Schott 220s w/Enphase M190 micro-inverters
  • 4. 2-Yingli 230s w/Enphase M190 micro-inverters
  • 5. 2-Sharp 224s w/Enphase M190 micro-inverters
  • 6. 4-Sanyo HIT BiFacial 195s w/PVP1100 central inverter

Testing the Sanyo Bifacial Panels

What do we want to know? First, the obvious question: which solar modules produce the most power? How do the Sanyo Bifacial solar modules hold up? Aren't they supposed to make 30% more electricity? The Sanyo Bifacial panels are being plugged in as skylights in the kitchen and bath. Is there any ambient light to generate more power from? Or should we Solar Module Installationrelegate this panel to car port applications? 


Central Solar Inverter Goes Up Against the New Enphase Microinverter

What about the Enphase inverter to module matchup? Does one combination fare best? If you haven't tried Enphase, it greatly simplifies installation - but an experienced electrician should not be overlooked. I love clamping the modules to the rail and making the final hookups, but I'm still intimidated at the main panel. Don't work alone!

And what about the PV Powered inverter? How soon does it turn on compared to the micro-inverters? Is there enough light generated inside the house to turn it on? (Doubtful, but aren't you curious?) What about monitoring on the central inverter? It comes with an "installable" card - but do I have to be an engineer to set it up and use it?

In theory solar is simple. But at the end of the day a good installation requires a plan and attention to detail. Every installation is unique. As you learn, build, and buy your own array think about how you want it to look. Key considerations outside of the modules are the racking system and where to put the wire runs that feed electricity back to the grid. PV systems are elegant or ugly depending on the location, the methods used to point them at the sun and the wire runs moving current. One thing we won't get around on this install - the solar modules will look different, because they are different.

For today, I am going back to the roof. The holes have been cut in the roof and the skylights have been framed. The roofer has come and gone, and the array feet have been placed. Conduit runs are in place. The bifacial modules need to be installed quickly so that the roof is, well, a roof again.

From the street.

Tags: DIY Solar Installation, Solar Modules, Solar Panels, Residential PV Systems, Solar Inverters, Home Solar PV, Solar home Panel, Solar Energy Systems



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