Batteries, Microinverters, Renewables, Solar

Innovative solar trends in Europe

As the global energy crisis grips the world, companies such as APsystems are developing new technologies that can benefit Australia.

During the ongoing global energy crisis, solar technology continues to nurture the hope of implementing a carbon-free world where energy is accessible to as many people as possible.

According to Solar Power Europe, the European Union (EU) added a record-breaking 41.4GW of solar power in 2022. This new capacity is equivalent to the power needs of 12.4 million European homes. Annual EU solar power growth has increased by 47 per cent, from 28.1GW, in 2021.

The company mission for microinverter manufacturer APsystems shares this vision of the world where innovation pushes the limits, creating new applications and accelerating energy transition. With more than 3GW of microinverters delivered worldwide, and customers in more than 100 countries, the organisation provides multi-module microinverters utilising cutting-edge technology.

Microinverter systems bring many benefits to residential rooftop systems. APsystems’ products eliminate shading issues. Through their installation flexibility, energy production can be maximised and users can rely on a safe system.

Standalone balcony systems

Since the start of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Europeans have braced for the possibility of widespread power cuts. The already strong demand for residential solar energy has accelerated since the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2022.

In Germany, the deployment of microinstallations for balconies has increased. This type of application – favoured by local legislation authorising direct injection of up to 600W from solar energy into a home’s electrical network – helps families reduce their energy bill while covering the energy needs of their appliances.

These microinstallation systems allow families to fight against energy shortages without having to make substantial investment up front. APsystems’ dual microinverters are suitable for such applications, and there is strong demand for them in Germany.

On the back of this demand, APsystems has introduced a range of microinverters that are simple to use due to integrated wi-fi technology that allows a direct connection with a user’s internet router. The company’s range of microinverters was launched in Germany in June 2023.

Switching gas-powered apartments to solar

As uptake of microinverters increases for residential and commercial rooftops, site owners of large projects are realising their potential. In Terneuzen, Netherlands, a large-scale residential solar conversion has utilised APsystems’ inverters. Combining rooftops and cladding, this 88kWp project features 110 of the company’s DS3 microinverters, switching 22 gas-powered apartments to clean electricity from solar, including for hot water and heating.

“It was decided to connect every home to 10 solar panels – together these provide 4000W to each residence,” says the project’s installer, Erik de Zwart, from Zonnepaneel Zeeland.

“However, space was lacking and the roof offered limited capacity. That’s how I thought about completing the solar-powered roof with a cladding project for 20 panels which, according to our calculations, was the optimum size of the installation.

“But then a new challenge arose – how would we divide the panels among the residents in a fair way? We chose the ideal mix, with each house receiving 10 panels, some on the east and a few on the south and west. This way, every home is guaranteed a minimum yield.

“Connecting all the panels with different orientations together with a string inverter would not have worked. The flexibility offered by the DS3 dual microinverters from APsystems assured every home would get an optimal solar power generation package to cover its boiler and heating.”

Commercial and industrial solar

Converting unused parking spaces into solar energy carport stations across supermarkets in France was debated in the country’s National Assembly in 2022. In December the same year, it was legislated that outdoor car parks of more than 1500 square metres must be equipped with photovoltaic structures by 2028.

At the end of 2022, APsystems introduced the QT2, its second generation of native three-phase quad microinverters. The car park legislation in France illustrates how the commercial and industrial (C&I) solar segment is evolving, paving the way for a new generation of rooftop solar systems, which leverage advanced communication and conversion technologies at an affordable price.

Many buildings only consider the use of microinverters for large rooftops when a shading problem exists. There is a common belief it is too expensive compared to string inverters, but this is not true. A native three-phase microinverter, such as the QT2, guarantees phase balance while connecting four modules of 500W to 600W per device.

For a 100kW installation, it would require the installation of only 25 microinverters, which guarantee optimum production from each of the PV modules independently without any impact on the panel next to it. APsystems understands the cost of cleaning the panels – frequently needed for this type of installation with string inverters – is now less of a priority since each panel operates independently, benefitting project owners.

Because microinverters produce more power while requiring minimal maintenance, the small upfront cost is largely offset by a lower levelised cost of energy (LCOE) during the life of the system.

Microinverters also present many advantages compared to string inverters, including greater flexibility when fitting a roof with different angles or orientations, and accommodating other roof obstacles or limited space. Safety is also maximised because there is no high voltage DC on the roof, an important concern for a building such as a school or supermarket car park.

It is also a good way to raise users’ awareness of the project as production of each module is accessible online and free of charge on the real-time monitoring portal with the possibility of observing the equivalent tonnes of CO2 avoided.

Storage the next big thing

Generating clean energy from solar-powered roofs, cladding or carports is a growing trend, but the next step is the ability to store that energy for use at other times. This is driving the next wave of product innovations APsystems will launch on the market under the APstorage brand.

APstorage is already introducing the SEA range, its first generation of smart power conversion systems (PCS) with an ELS battery charger solution.

Based on APsystems’ innovative Module Level Power Electronics technology, the ELS 3K or 5K PCS provide a modular, single-phase AC coupling energy storage solution for residential solar.

Together with compatible low-voltage LiFePO4 batteries, including APstorage batteries, it becomes the ideal AC coupling storage solution for residential PV applications.

The system can store from 5kWh to 20kWh for households. With automatic energy management features, system owners can choose between a back-up function, self-consumption and peak valley time modes to secure critical loads during power outages and maximise energy savings.

APstorage’s LAKE1000 will complete the company’s mobile power storage solutions range in 2023 with its 1kWh capacity, which is tailored to meet the charging needs of various small home appliances such as a microwave, coffee machine or notebook for several hours.

There are many other innovations on the horizon for APsystems’ product portfolio to make solar energy accessible for everyone.

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