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Grid Tie Inverters

A grid-tie inverter, technically known as the grid-interactive inverter, is a type of electrical inverter that translates direct current into alternating current. This is necessary due to the nature in which many renewable energy sources, especially modern solar cells, work.

These inverters function as the primary conversion equipment that changes DC electrical power into AC electrical power. The most common uses are found when changing the direct current from a photovoltaic module from a solar cell panel or small hydroelectric turbines into alternating current so that it can then be fed into the power grid directly.

The inverter does more than simply convert one electrical type to another however. A grid-tie inverter also synchronizes the electrical current frequency with the grid. This will allow the amount of electrical power sent into the grid to match the power limits to prevent the occasional overload surge. The computer on board the inverter continually monitors its output and the grid waveform. This will allow it to only send as much current through to the grid as the grid can safely handle at the time.

This is an important safety feature required by the NEC. Without this functionality line workers would be in danger during black outs because the inverter would continue to allow massive amounts of current to run through the lines. This would mean the possibly injury or even death of an electrical repair technician in the field.

There are three main types of grid-tie inverter technology currently on the market, two of which use transformers. There are high frequency converters, low frequency converters, and wireless converters that do not use transformers.

High frequency transformers utilize the most up-to-date transformer technology to convert direct current to a higher frequency alternating version then back to direct current. This allows for a greater control of the power flow as it converts once again to the final alternating current output. Low frequency transformers simply convert direct current to alternating current.

Transformer-less grid-tie inverters are very popular in European countries due to their lighter weight and higher efficiency compared to the transformer using varieties. America has been slower in adopting them because of a requirement that all electrical systems must have a negative ground. The alloys used in many of the power grids throughout the US are based on an alloy that would melt or be otherwise damaged without this.

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