Schneider Electric launches off-grid-capable solar charge controller

October 10 09:31 2020
The power electronics company is offering a product which can work on and off the grid and enables the charging of dead batteries using a rooftop solar array.

When the sun sets and the batteries have run out, most storage systems won’t be able to charge directly from a rooftop PV array at daybreak.

There are many reasons to add storage to a home solar system but, for many, the chief attraction is the ability to keep loads running during power outages — a point which power electronics company Schneider Electric‘s newest product claims to improve on.

The company has launched its Conext MPPT 100 high-power solar charge controller, which purportedly ramps up charging power 25% compared to predecessor the MPPT 80. Usually, if a battery dies at night, or after prolonged power outages, an inverter will not charge the battery from the PV array at daybreak, as grid power is needed to reboot the system. Schneider’s charge controller, however, would enable  recharging from PV after the whole installation has come to a halt. Thus, the system for DC-coupled solutions can also work entirely off-grid, if required. The manufacturer was keen to stress, though, the new charge controller works in tandem with the grid to optimize self-sufficiency.

Charge controllers manage the charge current going into the battery and according to the product datasheet, the MPPT 100 produces a considerable, 100 A charge current. Though the device is rated at 6 kW, it can be connected to slightly oversized arrays of up to 7 kW, says the manufacturer.

The product is designed to operate at 600 V, including the temperature correction factor, which drives a reduction in balance-of-system costs. The manufacturer said owners can benefit from 50% less wiring on the two input strings to the controller, compared to low-voltage products. The charge control is carried out by a three-stage set-up in which bulk, absorption and float methods are used, in addition to the option of manual equalization.

In terms of battery voltage, Schneider’s new device can handle 24 and 48 V products. The battery operation voltage range was announced as 16-67 Vdc. The higher the battery voltage, the better the power conversion efficiency, according to the manufacturer, with 95% efficiency measured for 48 V battery technologies and 92% for 24 V devices. Equipped with a wide operating voltage range – 195-550 V for the PV system – and a similarly open MPPT voltage range, of 195-510 Vdc, the manufacturer says its product offers greater flexibility in string sizing than rivals. The MPPT algorithm is also said to be shade tolerant and ‘fast sweeping,’ according to Schneider, further improving the energy harvest.

The charge controller can be used as a standalone product or combined with Schneider’s XW Pro, XW+, and SW storage inverters, added the manufacturer. In either case, Schneider says the product allows for the omission of DC breakers, combiner boxes and fuses.

Installers can also benefit from Schneider Electric’s Insight energy management platform, said the company, which offers remote settings management and maintenance to keep truck rolls to a minimum. The system also supports portfolio monitoring and management tools, enabling installers to keep track of multiple assets.

The software can, of course, also be used by homeowners to tinker with settings or monitor array performance from their phones.

For customers in the U.S., an accessory is required to comply with NEC 2017 module-level rapid shutdown requirements and enable full equipment disconnection, and Schneider’s MPPT Disconnect RS product is available.

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global Ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest Partner, Integrator and Developer Community on our Open Platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to Innovation, Diversity and Sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment.

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