Getting Over the Demise of Your 600 Volt PV Inverter: The 5 Stages of Grief

The failure of a 600-volt inverter can be tough. Alencon’s solutions can help.

As the first wave of commercial and utility scale solar plants built between the years of 2008 and 2012 comes of age, we are now beginning to experience a part of the project life cycle many project developers forecasted years ago – the need to replace the originally installed central inverter. However, just because you might have known this day was coming, like the loss of an older relative, when it comes, that foresight does not necessarily make it any easier to deal with.

Here at Alencon, we build power electronics called DC:DC optimizers which allow for the cost effective replacement of failed 600 volt central PV inverters As such, we find ourselves on the receiving end of an increasing volume of calls with every passing week from solar project owners large and small now facing the challenge of replacing a failed central inverter. We are dealing with so many in bound cases of inverter failure at the moment that we often find ourselves playing the role of grief counselor and as such thought we’d share that experience to help guide you through what you might be experiencing by drawing a parallel to Kübler-Ross construct for dealing with loss known as “The Five Stages of Grief.”

The Five Stages of Grief was originally developed in 1969 to describe the process patients with terminal illness go through as they come to terms with their own deaths; it was later applied to grieving friends and family as well, who seemed to undergo a similar process. Here at Alencon, we have found it helpful in guiding PV plant owners experiencing the challenge of inverter failure for the first time, which more and more are with each passing day.

Below, we have shared how this model can be applied to maintaining your PV plant in the wake of an inverter failure and help you move swiftly from the demise of your inverter to getting your plant back up and running:

1.Denial: Your 600-volt central inverter has either failed completely and or is beginning to become more and more unreliable. First, you reach out to your inverter supplier only to find they are no longer in the inverter business and any repairs are going to be exorbitantly expensive Band-Aids that might not improve the situation for very long. Then you turn to looking for a replacement unit only to find nobody makes isolated 600-volt central PV inverters that can serve as direct replacements for the 50 – 500 KW model(s) you have in your plant. This cannot be possible! Bad news, it is.

2.Anger: As you learn you cannot just go get a replacement for this failed unit as you watch your now unproductive or worse yet, dormant, asset languish, taking its cash flow along with it. Now you are just angry. Totally understandable.

3.Bargaining: You realize something needs to be done, so you begin to look for a solution. You might have known you would have to replace this unit eventually, but you had no idea it would be this hard (spoiler alert – it doesn’t have to be). You want to find the most cost effective, quick fix, a process that often involves bargaining with any number of vendors and service providers.

4. Depression: Having learned that this isn’t going to be the quick fix you’d hope for, you just get sad. Again, totally understandable. The key is not to spend too much time in this stage as it isn’t very productive. It just makes you miserable.

5. Acceptance: You have now accepted that your 600-volt inverter needs to be replaced and some investment is going to be needed to replace it. You understand there are a variety of issues to be balanced here, from maintaining the grounding scheme of your existing PV array so as not to void the PV panel warranty (your panel company is probably defunct as well) to stepping up the array voltage for the new inverter to the most cost optimal method for deploying this solution. It is during this phase you can rationally understand the myriad of solutions to your problem and choose the path most conducive to your situation.

Here at Alencon, we have extensive experience working with plant owners and successfully deploying solutions to replace failed 600-volt inverters. We maintain close working relationships with many of the industry’s leading inverter suppliers to assure that when a replacement inverter is installed in conjunction with Alencon’s products, they will work seamlessly. We have gone to extensive lengths to test our products with many, many 1000 and 1500 volt transformerless string inverter models (they are the sorts of units you will need to use when replacing your failed 600 volt central inverter) to assure seamless interoperability.

Know you are not alone in this journey. There are many others your situation. Here at Alencon, we’re here to help you move past this painful period and keep your solar assets producing.