While shopping for your solar installation in New Jersey you have probably encountered solar companies using two different inverter products – SolarEdge and Enphase.
Most companies that have committed to either product will tell you they are “the best,” and they wouldn’t necessarily be dishonest in saying so. The truth is, they are both great products that will get the job done, they are just a little different.
Before diving into those products it’s important to understand what a solar inverter does. In addition to the solar panels on the roof, every solar installation will also require an inverter. An inverter is the device that takes the DC power produced by the solar panels and converts it to AC power which is used in the home. The traditional type of inverter has been a “string inverter.” These devices convert the power from DC to AC at one centralized location without the ability to separate the solar system to the panel by panel level. These string inverters still have a place in the solar market and are more commonly used in commercial solar installations. String inverters can be efficient and cost effective, but their downside is when there are shading issues present and in system flexibility. The “flexibility” issue comes in the design limitations. The strings of solar panels feeding into the string inverter traditionally had to have been the same voltage. That meant the strings of solar panels had to be equal in size, facing the same direction, and with the same tilt. With SolarEdge and Enphase, there are not the same limitations.
SolarEdge is a “DC optimized inverter solution” while Enphase is a “micro inverter,” but they have many similarities. They are different than string inverters and similar to each other in that they break the solar installation down to the panel by panel level.
They are both in a class of inverters known as “MLPEs” or “Module Level Power Electronics.”
With both SolarEdge and Enphase, there is a device underneath each solar panel that isolates the panel and allows it to perform separately. With both solutions, customers can monitor their system in real time down to each individual panel. Because the solar panels are isolated, if there is an issue with one panel, the rest of the system keeps chugging along. If there is any shading, the shade only impacts the shaded modules while the rest of the system works optimally.
SolarEdge and Enphase together make up 95% of the US solar market and have been in the news a lot lately. Both companies have been reporting record sales and profits. Enphase trades on the NYSE as ENPH and is up a whopping 545% in 2019, while SolarEdge trades as SEDG and is also up 81% in 2019. The two companies have such a strong hold on the market that the Guggenheim Solar ETF (TAN) has the two companies combined making up over 20% of their holdings. You would be hard pressed to find a company offering a solar installation in NJ that does not offer SolarEdge or Enphase.
Enphase works by taking the old “central inverter” that used to be at the end of a long string of solar panels and making it into much smaller inverter that fits beneath each solar panel. With Enphase, the power that comes off the solar panel is converted from DC to AC right underneath the panel.
There is no central inverter at the end of the system.
These systems can be much easier to install, there is less bulky equipment taking up space, it’s technologically advanced and efficient, and customers have the peace of mind that comes with their 25-year warranty. Many panel brands like Panasonic and SunPower have even started implementing Enphase right into the back of their solar panels to make the installation even easier. Where Enphase has limitations is in price constraints especially as the system gets larger. Because no matter how big the system is, it still requires an inverter underneath each panel. Enphase is less likely to be seen on a larger commercial installation because of cost constraints and redundancies.
SolarEdge on the other hand aims to combine both the MLPE aspect of Enphase with central inverters in order to capture what they consider to be the “best of both worlds.” SolarEdge uses “MPPT” or “Maximum Power Point Tracking,” to make each module the most efficient that it can be individually. The voltage is optimized at each panel and then sent down to the central inverter where it is converted from DC to AC. The solar inverters in a SolarEdge system are smaller and simple, with the only task being to switch the power from DC to AC.
This technology works well enough that SolarEdge can claim a slight edge on Enphase in efficiency at 99% to Enphase’s 97%.
SolarEdge also has an advantage in pricing in most cases. Solar installers enjoy the “economics of scale” that SolarEdge can provide. The bigger the system is, the bigger the price difference will be between SolarEdge and Enphase. Another bonus to SolarEdge, is it is easily coupled with Powerwall by Tesla since batteries store their power in DC. The optimizers in a SolarEdge system have a 25-year warranty like Enphase, although the inverter component is only 12 but has the ability to be extended at a small cost.
Currently Green Power Energy is a SolarEdge installer exclusively, although we have worked with Enphase in the past, and even have 1,400 Enphase micro inverters installed on our own on site solar farm. As stated at the beginning of the article, they are both really good. It is our opinion that SolarEdge offers the best price and reliability for our customers at this time. We wouldn’t recommend over analyzing the solar installer by whether they use SolarEdge or Enphase. Both products will do the job well. Instead, look at the reviews and compare programs and pricing. At the end of the day, the installers reputation is way more important than whether or not they are selling product for SolarEdge or Enphase.