It is a debate which will always divide opinion on whether central or string inverters are best for utility-scale PV plants. Perhaps Sungrow have the definitive answer here with their virtual central inverter concept. They have managed to considerably increase the capacity of their string inverters to 125kW and their new virtual central inverter platform allows for centralised command and control of these string inverters. It seems like they have managed to mix the best parts of each option to produce a really neat solution. These new inverters start shipping this month so it will be interesting to see how they are received in the market, particularly in the US where central inverters dominate utility PV projects. It's great to see our client Sungrow maintaining their lead in PV inverter innovations.
From 2014 -2016, three-phase string inverters gained global market share in utility-scale projects over 5MW, growing from 10 percent to more than 30 percent last year, according to The Global PV Inverter and MLPE Landscape report from GTM Research. But the trend has been more prevalent in China and Europe, with less than 5 percent of utility-scale projects in North America using string inverters. “One of the main features of the virtual central inverter concept is the simplification of command and control.” As string inverters have become larger and more sophisticated, their costs have also come down. Central inverters are also continuing to see price declines. “When you get the price point down to where the hardware costs are comparable to the classic central inverter, then all of a sudden the other benefits are gravy,” Gregg said of string inverters.