Solar plus batteries

Hybrid inverters vs battery inverters for home solar energy storage

by James Martin II on December 8, 2015

in Solar System Products,Batteries & Energy Storage

Home solar energy storage is quickly coming into the mainstream in Australia, thanks to the low cost of solar PV installations here. Every home that installs a battery storage system will need an inverter to convert the stored DC electricity into grid & appliance-friendly AC electricity. The two main choices available are battery-specific inverters and so-called ‘hybrid’ or multi-mode inverters. What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of these types of solutions with regard to the role they play in energy storage systems?

Sunny Boy TL InverterStandard solar PV inverters

The basic function of a solar PV inverter is to convert the DC electricity generated by solar panels into AC electricity. Although individual products may each have their own bells & whistles, without performing this integral function they cannot be called an inverter. Solar PV inverter brands are plentiful in Australia – SMA, Fronius, ABB/Power-One, Growatt, Samil and Zeversolar are just a handful of the popular brands here.

Pros:

  • Time-tested technology – used widely in grid-connected solar systems around the world
  • Countless product options available

Cons:

  • Possible to include battery storage, but battery side of the system will require a separate inverter
  • Separate energy management system may be required to maximise overall system efficiency

Fronius Symo HybridHybrid solar inverters

In the context of residential solar+storage systems, a hybrid inverter (sometimes referred to as a multi-mode inverter) is an inverter which can simultaneously manage inputs from both solar panels and a battery bank, charging batteries with either solar panels or the electricity grid (depending on which is more economical or preferred). Their capabilities may go beyond this however – some devices also handle inputs from wind turbines, generators and other power sources.

Pros:

  • All-in-one inverter solution for grid-connected solar-plus-storage systems
  • Frequently intelligent and programmable for maximising overall system efficiency and savings
  • Can usually be installed without batteries for future expansion
  • Long history of use in off-grid and stand-alone power systems

Cons:

  • Less design flexibility than modular solutions which use separate PV and battery inverters
  • Generally less efficient than dedicated solar-only or battery-only inverters

Hybrid inverters available in Australia:

(If you notice something incorrect or missing from this list, please notify us via email on communications@solarchoice.net.au.)

Fronius – Symo Hybrid
Giant Power – Hybrid IGS
GoodWe – ES Series
ReneSola – RePlus
RESA – Voltlogic
Selectronic – Solar Hybrid
SMA – Sunny Boy Smart Energy (Hybrid with battery attached)
SolaX – X Hybrid Series
SolaX – X Hybrid Plus Series
SunGrow – SH 5K

Sunny IslandBattery inverters

Battery-specific inverters manage the charging and discharging of a battery bank. Just as with other inverters, their job is to convert DC electricity into AC electricity, but they also do the reverse – converting AC electricity into DC in order to charge a battery bank. Battery inverters can be installed into homes where no solar PV system exists for purposes of energy arbitration (i.e. using cheap off-peak grid electricity for battery charging), but most homes are more likely to install them in order to capture and store excess solar energy. Their modular nature means that they can be retrofitted relatively easily onto existing solar PV systems.

Pros:

  • Modular nature lends to greater system design flexibility
  • Long history of use in off-grid and stand-alone power systems means most units are exceptionally sturdy and durable
  • Can be relatively easily retrofitted onto existing solar PV systems for addition of battery storage

Battery-only inverters available in Australia:

(If you notice something incorrect or missing from this list, please notify us via email on communications@solarchoice.net.au.)

Giant Power – OffGrid IPS
SMA – Sunny Island
SMA – Sunny Boy Storage (compatible with Powerwall)
Schneider – Context
Selectronics – SP Pro AU Series
Selectronics – SP Pro GO Series
Latronic Sunpower – LS Series
Latronic Sunpower – IRM Series
Victron – Various inverters

What about complete solar-plus-storage solutions?

There are also a number of energy storage products available in Australia that are comprised of a hybrid inverter plus batteries – all-in-one, plug-and-play solutions. We will be publishing an article with a list of these devices soon. Please sign up for our newsletter using the form below to receive weekly updates.


Interested in energy storage for your home?

On the back of the success of our informative and impartial Solar Quote Comparisons, Solar Choice has developed an online comparison platform for energy storage solutions.

  • If you are looking for a new solar-plus-storage system, fill out the form to the right of this page to get instant quotes from installers in your area
  • If you are looking to retrofit batteries onto an existing solar PV system, please enter your details into the form below – we will get back to you when this functionality is live on our site.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

James Martin II

James Martin II

Communications Manager at Solar Choice
James has been Solar Choice's primary writer & researcher since 2010. He lives in Newcastle in a house with a weird solar system.
James Martin II

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sylvia February 10, 2017 at 11:56 am

Is battery inverter only for battery? I found sth called ME 3000SP from Shenzhen Sofar Solar. It looks like a battery inverter with AC charger.

Reply

Solar Choice Staff February 13, 2017 at 8:47 am

Hi Sylvia,

Yes, the job of a battery inverter/charger is to turn change the DC to AC (for battery discharging) and AC to DC (for battery charging). A hybrid inverter can also handle input from solar panels at the same time.

Reply

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