Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

Sorry for not doing my homework on the search button, but I'm meeting with an installer in a few days and wanted your opinions on what would be a good inverter for my project.

I bought 24 215w Evergreen panel's on a special sale. It was an impulse buy because a friend wrote me and said if you ever wanted solar, this was the deal of the century. I got the panel's for around $.78cents/watt.

Tech changes so fast, I wanted to ask in a new thread what has probably been asked a million times already, what inverter out there would you go with on a 5kw grid tie installation?

Thank you. :D I forget to mention I'm a total newb at this, but I've been reading.

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,923 admin
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    SMA is probably one of the best GT inverter manufacturers out there right now. Not cheap.

    Ask your installer which units seem to last and which brands he gets lots of returns on.

    You are looking for something that will last, at least, 10 years. And I would plan on replacing a GT inverter (or any power electronics) after 10+ years. In electronics, things age, and it is almost impossible to get parts/service on anything that is 10+ years old (and many times, 5+ years old)... Technology moves fast.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • solarvicsolarvic Solar Expert Posts: 1,071 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    I like my fronius inverters. I have both the previous ig models and the latest IG-Plus which I think is superiour to the previoug ig model. :Dsolarvic:D
  • solarixsolarix Solar Expert Posts: 713 ✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    SMA: Best established reliability despite having a fan, a little expensive, heavy, and hard to string size - should be Ok in your case. I hate their new string size tool.
    Fronius: Good all around. The older models were dis'd as a not so great design by Solar Guppy. No problems so far with the newer ones I've put in. Has fans and really should be mounted indoors.
    Xantrex/Schnieder: Maybe Schnieder will solve their production problems, but I and others have been burned by them in past. Nice, no-fan design though.
    Power-One: I'm starting to use these more, US made, good value, has dual MPPT input so can handle 2 arrays with different orientations.
    SolarEdge: I love this distributed architecture for shady situations, but is more expensive and is new with some reliability problems. Has built in web interface.
    Enphase: Best for smaller size systems. Some people really love them, I'm not sure if they'll survive in a rooftop environment.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,395 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    I have a pair of PVPowered 5200 series 1 inverters that have been flawless for the almost 3 years they have been in service. There are no fans to wear out and have a fairly large heatsink. I am getting 80-81 percent harvest from the name plate rating as compared to PVwatts estimates of 77 percent. My mounted location is east facing so they are shaded from the afternoon sun.
    http://solarenergy.advanced-energy.com/en/PVP5200_discontinued.html

    I don't have any experience with the current line however, but the last I knew they were made in USA.
  • raydiasraydias Solar Expert Posts: 68 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    Have you looked at the Enphase micro inverters. The new ones have a 25 year warranty VS. 10-15 for most string inverters and there are a number of other benefits

    - per panel monitoring
    - AC from the roof to the house panel
    - DC disconnect not required in most cases
    - better energy harvest per panel

    Just from what I have read so far. When I get serious and install a system it will probably be with the micro inverter

    Just my 2 cents
  • solarvicsolarvic Solar Expert Posts: 1,071 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    In a way this question is like asking someone what the best car is to buy. Everyone has thier preferences and from each person you might get a different answer. Probably any of the ones mentioned so far will serve you well. solarvic
  • jagecjagec Solar Expert Posts: 157 ✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?
    raydias wrote: »
    Have you looked at the Enphase micro inverters. The new ones have a 25 year warranty VS. 10-15 for most string inverters and there are a number of other benefits

    - per panel monitoring
    - AC from the roof to the house panel
    - DC disconnect not required in most cases
    - better energy harvest per panel

    Just from what I have read so far. When I get serious and install a system it will probably be with the micro inverter

    Just my 2 cents

    They are also almost double the price of a string inverter per watt.
  • raydiasraydias Solar Expert Posts: 68 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?
    jagec wrote: »
    They are also almost double the price of a string inverter per watt.

    If you factor in the replacement of the inverter since a lot of the string inverters have a 10-15 year warranty and other savings like Not needing a DC disconnect, etc. i don't agree that they are 2x the cost any more. And if you agree with the sales pitch on simplified as well as a faster installation and adding the "increased harvest per panel" it does make a compelling argument for Micro vs. string. But like another post stated it does boil down to preference. Ans we can also talk about when a string inverter fails you loos out on the harvest VS. the micro but that's another can of worms.

    I often find myself bouncing back and forth but since I plan on doing a DIY install some day I am leaning towards the Micro. But technology doesn't stand still
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    we have had discussions on the aspect of the enphase inverters and it is up in the air if the warranty on enphase inverters is being realistic even if they are serious about it. also, where will your warranty be if they decide there are too many warranty repairs coming in and go the route of bankruptcy?

    at best the enphase warranty would bring it to par with the single inverter.
  • RoderickRoderick Solar Expert Posts: 253 ✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    Our PV Powered PV2800-XV has been running faithfully since 2006, no trouble. That's a 1st generation inverter, they may be more efficient today.

    I see few advantages to microinverters, except for the rare site where shading on some part of the array is unavoidable during some part of the day.

    Another consideration is whether you are interested in logging your energy production, and how you will do that. Some companies make you buy an extra module, or even charge you a yearly subscription to monitor the inverter. Xantrex was the only company I know of that had an open protocol, so free tools are available to monitor it. I believe Solectria also has free monitoring software, and either you have to buy the serial cable from them, or make one. If you have an old Palm V or Palm IIIc, I have free software that will monitor a Solectria on that. It saves having a computer or laptop on all the time just for monitoring.
  • raydiasraydias Solar Expert Posts: 68 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?
    niel wrote: »
    we have had discussions on the aspect of the enphase inverters and it is up in the air if the warranty on enphase inverters is being realistic even if they are serious about it. also, where will your warranty be if they decide there are too many warranty repairs coming in and go the route of bankruptcy?

    at best the enphase warranty would bring it to par with the single inverter.

    This can be true for any manufacturer and any part of the solar installation.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?
    raydias wrote: »
    This can be true for any manufacturer and any part of the solar installation.

    you're quite right, but how many are making an outlandish or questionable warranty claim from the start?
  • TxflyboyTxflyboy Registered Users Posts: 15
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    Thanks a bunch everyone.

    I have my homework cut out for me.
  • raydiasraydias Solar Expert Posts: 68 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?
    niel wrote: »
    you're quite right, but how many are making an outlandish or questionable warranty claim from the start?

    What makes he warranty outlandish or questionable? Then you'd have to say the same about the 25 year warranty on the panels and just about every product that provides a long term warranty.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    ray,
    i'm not going to drag this into a big debate as the discussion of enphase warranties has already been gone over. in summary it is not very feasible to expect electronics to last that long. pvs on the other hand is not quite of the same thing as there aren't parts on them that will blow out excepting for a few diodes and you will notice that the warranty on those parts don't last 20-25yrs, but usually up to about 5yrs. the warranty you refer to is an output power warranty with a backward sliding scale as even pvs aren't expected to be 100% for too long unlike enphase that is saying their products will last.

    this is and was already debatable and debated about how they can say their product will last that long or is it a thing that they don't expect to honor the initial warranty or even drop out of the business before things get too costly due to warranty repairs and replacements? it is an unsubstantiated claim that nobody can say one way or the other to be true.

    with that the redebating of enphase's warranty shall stop here in this thread as you can continue this in a thread about that or create another thread.
  • TxflyboyTxflyboy Registered Users Posts: 15
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    ... I have a bunch to learn....

    Sorry for asking what kind before my first order of business which is to determine the loads to see what size inverter would be most efficient. But my array is 5KW. So I guess I need a 5KW inverter if I want to realize the full potential and leave room for expansion.

    Tough decision whether to put the panels on the roof, or on the ground.

    Still waiting on the installers bids.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    no need for you to apologize. the warranty issue somewhat sidetracked your inquiry and that is why i stopped it from continuing. do consider the warranty as well on an inverter, but be cautious on giving enphase too much extra consideration due to warranty and you can read more about that elsewhere in the forum.

    if you put 5kw in pv to a 5kw inverter there isn't any room for expansion as it is maxed out at that point. you could just add another system with another inverter to run side-by-side with the first one for any expansion or just buy a bigger inverter to start with that could cover any expansion you'd expect to have.
  • solarvicsolarvic Solar Expert Posts: 1,071 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    You need to look over the specs. of different inverters and make sure you have the inverters that match your panels voltage and amp . Mistake I made was I had 16 panels and had an inverter that could only use 14 of them in one string because 16 wold be too high a voltage at one string. Voltage would be too low at 2 strings of 8. I replaced that inverter with a fronuios 3/0 inverter that can handle up to 600 vdc imput. Since i had 14 panels that were similar voltage I could use My first inverter with them. solaevic
  • peakbaggerpeakbagger Solar Expert Posts: 341 ✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    I have a orphan inverter built by a company that went out of business soon after the inverter came out. Its been running for more than 10 years. I have a Fronius that has been on line for 5 years with no major issues (one free board upgrade early on). I have a friend with a 6 or 7 year old Fronius that has some odd error codes recently, it turned out the local utility had some issues and the Fronius was doing what it was programmed to do. They utility fixed the issues and his inverter was fine. The tech support people at Fronius helped him out during the process.

    If you are new to solar and dont plan to get heavilly involved with thdesing details, you most likely are going to depend on the installer to do the set up and service it if needed int he future. If his choice is competitive and you think he will be in business for the long haul, I would consider his recomendation
  • TxflyboyTxflyboy Registered Users Posts: 15
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?

    Thank you all.

    What I want is an inverter that we can add batteries to later if I want to.

    The home the solar is going on is our farm home. We do not live there. But we are considering moving there. If we do, and we lived there all the time, I would want batteries to run critical loads.

    In the beginning I just want grid tie to lower the power bill.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
    Re: Best inverter for 5kw installation ?
    Txflyboy wrote: »
    Thank you all.

    What I want is an inverter that we can add batteries to later if I want to.

    The home the solar is going on is our farm home. We do not live there. But we are considering moving there. If we do, and we lived there all the time, I would want batteries to run critical loads.

    In the beginning I just want grid tie to lower the power bill.

    There really are no GT inverters that can have battery back-up capacity added later. You either buy the battery capacity now, or add off-grid ability later. The one system that comes closest to what you want is SMA; their Sunny Boy GT inverters can couple to their Sunny Island battery-based inverter. This system is pricey too, as the Island is about $4,000 alone.

    Sunny Boy GT inverters: http://www.solar-electric.com/smasugrtiein.html
    Sunny Island: http://www.solar-electric.com/smasunnyisland.html

    They are good inverters, mind you.

    IIRC, the Xantrex XW can also be used in a manner similar to the Sunny Island, synching to GT inverters.
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