Outdated solar systems are a lot like old style Christmas lights. Remember when one bulb burned out and the whole string went dark. In old solar systems, if one solar panel produced only 20% of its energy capacity due to shade, the whole array of panels produced the same low percentage, dramatically reducing overall solar production.
The good news: As with Christmas lights, solar technology has improved. One of the best recent solar innovations is the microinverter. Inverters are the workhorses of the solar array. They convert the DC energy generated by the solar array into AC energy, the type of energy you can use in your home. Historically, if anything on a solar panel system were to fail, it would most likely have been the hard-working inverter. Today, instead of installing one large inverter for an entire solar array, many customers choose to use microinverters. Microinverters are small inverters designed to be installed behind each individual solar panel on the roof. To learn more about inverters, see our Solar Glossary.
Twenty-five microinverters installed in a solar system with 25 panels will result in approximately 4% higher energy production than if the panels were connected to one large central inverter. When each panel has its own inverter, one panel can be producing at 20% capacity due to morning shade, while, at the same time, the panels next to it in full sun can be are producing at 100% capacity. Not only does this innovation mitigate loss of energy production arising from shade or debris, it also increases safety. The risk associated with DC energy traveling from the roof to the inverter is eliminated when the energy conversion occurs right at the panel.