One particular component type—the smart module—has been increasing in popularity because of its benefits compared to traditional modules. If you haven’t considered smart modules (also known as DC-optimized modules) they’re worth a look.
What Is a Smart Solar Module?
A smart module is a solar panel with an integrated DC power optimizer. Smart modules will have the power optimizers pre-attached to them, and the optimizers help each panel operate at its maximum power level regardless of how the other panels on the same string are performing. This allows for more energy to be harvested from the smart module PV systems.
The tradeoff of using smart modules comes down primarily to cost. The price tag might be higher, but the benefits from smart solar modules may be more attractive depending on the situation.
Top 3 Benefits of Smart Modules
- Increased energy production: As mentioned earlier, a PV system using smart modules can produce more energy compared to a traditional system. With the embedded DC optimizers, each module is able to correct for its “mismatch” and function independently from one another, resulting in more energy production.
- Lower soft costs: Smart modules can help streamline purchasing processes and reduce installation time. Instead of having to source a vendor for both panels and DC optimizers and order them, you only need to do it for one hardware. Also, installers won’t need to carry multiple hardwares up to the roof, install and connect them. Faster installation times can lower labor costs, and the savings could be passed down the end customer.
- Faster troubleshooting: Since smart modules operate independently of one another, you can monitor the performance of each module. If maintenance is required or the system is underperforming, you’ll have a much easier time identifying which panel(s) need attention.
When to Use Smart Modules
Smart modules (or adding power optimizers to your PV system) are typically ideal for situations where shading is a problem or if the PV system will be installed on multiple roof surfaces. For systems on a roof surface with no shade throughout the day, in an area with great weather almost year round (like Southern California), a traditional system may be the ideal choice.
Before selecting which components to use, it’s important to have a full understanding of each component and what your options are, and know how much solar energy (or irradiance) is available at the project site. Depending on the situation and what you’re trying to solve for, smart modules may be the best option or there might be another suitable solution at a lower price point.
Sunny Wang is Aurora Solar’s Director of Government Affairs and Communications. Previously, she was the Assistant Director of a new interdisciplinary research initiative at Stanford University. She received her Masters in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University and graduated Pi Alpha Alpha from CSU, Fullerton.