In the world of solar energy, shade really is the bad guy. When solar panels are daisy-chained together in strings, shade that seemingly affects only one panel actually affects the whole set. In fact, we can’t blame shade alone. Even a dirty panel in a string can cause the whole string to lose valuable energy production. So can variances in panel degradation and manufacturing mismatch.
To get around these problems, the industry has needed to find a way for each solar panel to work independently. Module Level Power Electronics (MLPE) refers to solutions that use some manner of electronics to solve the shade and dirt problems. In addition to allowing independent panel operations, MLPE also gives you design flexibility and the ability to monitor panels individually.
MLPE has evolved to cover different technology types, from bypass diodes to micro-inverters to optimizers. Maxim, in particular, provides a simple and cost-effective solar panel optimization technology. The solution replaces bypass diodes in the panels with Maxim chips, addressing the fact that not all panels in a string necessarily operate at the same current. While lifting the current in a shaded panel to match the current in other panels, the optimizers lower the voltage of the panel. They work efficiently at the cell-string level.
The right solar optimizers can enhance the energy production capability of solar panels.
For a better understanding of why I believe Maxim provides the best solution to date, read my post, “the closest thing to shade-proof solar.” You’ll also learn why optimizers are essential and about some of the other optimizer technologies available on the market today.
Mark Cavanagh is the owner and manager of MC Solar & Electrical in Brisbane, Australia. He’s also an electrician, accredited solar installer/designer, and an electrical contractor. Mark blogs regularly about solar technologies on his company’s website.