As a registered solar engineer, certified contractor and licensed PV instructor of US Solar Institute, I frequently receive calls from homeowners and businesses asking for recommendations on the best solar PV products to use.
Typical considerations include the usual shading culprits (i.e. leaves, clouds and bird droppings) that can dramatically reduce the performance of solar panels wired in series. But because I work primarily throughout the state of Florida and the Caribbean region, I have the luxury of testing a broad range of technologies under extreme conditions.
These conditions include:
- 100+ degree temperatures
- Direct equatorial sunlight
- Salty, humid settings
- Hurricane-force winds that exceed 150 mph
So when Enphase Energy began marketing its products in Florida, I naturally became interested – especially after learning that they favored module-level integration over more traditional string-level management.
Despite this initial excitement, my actual experience testing technology from Enphase was disappointing:
- Inverters quickly corroded in Florida’s humid, salty environment
- Direct sunlight forced these systems to operate well above the 150 degree threshold mandated by Enphase.
- To monitor system performance, one must purchase additional equipment not included with the original system design
In fairness – Enphase honored its parts warranty. But they did not cover the cost of labor or any of the mandatory middleware I had to purchase to make the system fully operational. My initial eagerness had prompted me to deploy Enphase in a number of projects throughout the region. As these systems began to fail one-by-one, my profits eroded even faster than the inverters.
Although disappointed, I was also realistic. Designing systems for the Florida market is no small feat. Enphase made an honest attempt, and I couldn’t hold them responsible for failing where so many others had failed before.
So you can imagine my reluctance when SolarEdge began marketing many of the same benefits that initially drew me to Enphase.
I was impressed that SolarEdge offered module-level power optimization at the DC level. And I must admit that its tagline, “Architects of Energy,” certainly piqued my interest.
But still, I had my doubts.
Now, after side-by-side testing under real-world conditions, we have discovered that SolarEdge system efficiency consistently exceeds that of Enphase– sometimes by as much as 10%.
In isolation, this difference may not seem like much. Over the 20 to 30-year lifespan of a standard solar PV system however, this advantage of greater energy harvest can translate into sizable energy savings. This is especially true in a state with historically low electricity rates (currently $0.09); every percentage point matters when discussing payback periods.
On strictly performance (both under laboratory conditions and on the US Solar Institute roof), SolarEdge consistently emerged as the clear winner– at least for the Florida market. But we discovered a number of other advantages as well, including:
- The SolarEdge solution is more affordable than Enphase – another major factor when assessing project payback periods.
- The SolarEdge solution comes as a completely integrated system with no additional middleware necessary to monitor performance. Moreover, system monitoring with SolarEdge remains free for the lifetime of the system. Enphase charges for this value-added service after a few years.
Customization and panel selection are limited with Enphase. If you install panels greater than 240W, the M215 microinverter “clips” the amount of power that could have been produced by that panel. The SolarEdge solution is compatible with higher-wattage panels now common in residential and commercial installations, again resulting in a larger energy harvest.
- SolarEdge’s OPA optimizer works with any string line inverters, providing unprecedented flexibility when customizing installations for commercial and residential clients.
- Whereas the Enphase architecture includes three energy conversions under the panel, SolarEdge only requires one. Each subsequent layer of conversion produces heat, creating energy losses for the entire solar PV system.
- Enphase optimal performance taps out at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. SolarEdge continues delivering clean energy well above 180 degrees, thanks to the design of its OPA power optimizer.
A Clear Choice for the Florida Solar PV Market
Because I’ve never tested Enphase outside of the Caribbean, I cannot rate its performance under all conditions. Perhaps it’s ideally suited for other solar markets that don’t have the same challenges we face in Florida, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Based on my first-hand experience with both technologies however, I remain convinced that SolarEdge is one of the best tools for the PV solar market. These solutions provide the highest energy returns at the lowest cost, complete with lifetime monitoring – even from your smart phone.
Several installers we have trained at U.S. Solar Institute had this to say about why they prefer SolarEdge solutions over other technologies:
SolarEdge consistently passed every test in our labs when we were looking for solar solutions that could withstand Florida’s extreme weather conditions. SolarEdge came out on top every time.” Ray Johnson – US Solar Institute and Florida Solar One, Inc
“In a region accustomed to salty humidity, hurricane winds and semi-equatorial sunshine, SolarEdge continues to deliver unparalleled performance over string-line and microinverters day in and day out.” Kelly Glogger – Solar Delivered, St Croix
“SolarEdge’s high-performance PV power optimization systems continue to deliver peak performance in a region renown for hurricane winds and salty humidity.” Ivor Rogers – St Vincent
“Why did we choose SolarEdge over Enphase? SolarEdge costs less, lasts longer, and delivers more – period. There really is no comparison. SolarEdge wins every time.” David Russell – Russell AC & Solar Bahama
Continued testing in our laboratories coupled with enthusiastic feedback from our clients merely reinforces my belief that the Sunshine State’s transition to a solar economy is closer than I originally believed.