Smart Solar Inverters

SDG&E is in discussions with utility regulators about requiring San Diego solar power installations to include “smart” inverters.

According to SDG&E President and COO, Michael Niggli, this new technology would allow the utility company to remotely bring solar installations back online in the event of grid-wide power failures.

These smart inverters also make it easier for SDG&E to regulate voltage levels, thus, ensuring more reliable delivery of power throughout the network.

So What Does This Mean for San Diego’s Solar Power Producers?

Because the new regulation has yet to be approved, it’s hard to say how this change will affect San Diego’s solar power community.

  • Will it only apply to new solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, or will the requirements be retroactive?
  • Will it affect residential and commercial solar customers alike?
  • Will San Diego solar power customers be asked to cover the cost out-of-pocket?  Or will these smart inverters be partially subsidized by some 3rd party – for example, SDG&E?

This last point could be a deal-breaker for many, since by Niggli’s own admission, these smart inverters won’t come cheap.

Keep in mind that this announcement comes on the heels of a highly unpopular 12% to 30% utility bill price hike.

How enthusiastically will homeowners and businesses pay for improvements that help SDG&E but provide little to no direct benefit to the actual user?

Perhaps more important, will SDG&E’s recommended smart inverters offer the same capabilities that today’s top-of-the-line inverters offer?  After all, many solar power customers throughout San Diego install “micro” inverters due to their ability to generate superior power output – even when the panels are partially shaded.

Is it fair to mandate that customers install inferior inverters and forgo extra electricity savings so that SDG&E can do a better job of managing voltage for the entire grid?

San Diego’s Solar Power Industry – More Questions Than Answers

We’ve already started getting phone calls about this recent announcement, but as you can see, we have more questions than answers.

Who knows whether SDG&E’s request will go through or how far-reaching the changes will be if and when approved?

Until we learn more, our attitude at Sunline Energy is – business as usual.

People throughout San Diego want lower electricity bills and smaller carbon footprints.  With or without SDG&E’s smart inverters, solar power still represents the best way to accomplish both of these goals.

And when it comes to inverter technology, we’ll continue recommending and installing micro-inverters for our clients.