Instyle Solar Product Review- Inverter ABB - TRIO-20.0-OUTD

The inverter in your solar system must be accurate and reliable (assuming you want to enjoy your solar system experience, otherwise it doesn’t matter!).

Most inverters from the known manufacturers have good efficiency and, assuming you are prepared to pay for good quality, the best fit for you will depend on what load you intend on connecting to the end of this.

The TRIO 20.0 is a three-phase inverter that has a lot of not-so-obvious features that are very useful for someone who knows what they are doing.

There is not enough space in this article to comb through every single detail, but we will tell you what you need to know if you are considering buying this.

About ABB

ABB is a massive company that ship over 1 million electronic products to customers worldwide.

Even if this figure is slightly exaggerated, this still makes them a top manufacturer of technology internationally.

Their operations are divided into four global divisions: Electrification Products, Robots and Motion, Industrial Automation, and Power Grids, and the inverter we are reviewing is a part of the Power Grids division.

Founded in 1988, they have been a global Fortune 500 company for over 23 years. They are Swiss…and the Swiss are known for their good engineering.

ABB was responsible for pioneering High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) technology that has gained popularity as a way to distribute electricity.

hey have, through HVDC, managed to push voltage levels to record highs, which reduces the amount of energy lost during the transport of this electrical energy, of course.

Products

ABB manufactures too many products to mention in this article so we will focus on their Power Grids division briefly.

The company serves utility, transportation, infrastructure and industrial customers.

They manufacture products for the generation, distribution and transmission of electricity. A full list of the products and services offered by the Power Grids division can be found here.

ABB offers solar string inverters with between 1.2kW and 120kW output power and central inverters of up to 2300kW output power.

There are residential and commercial inverters they offer with both single and three-phase outputs.

The highest-rated single-phase inverters available from them have an output of 6kW and the highest-rated three-phase inverter output from amongst their products is 60kW.

The three-phase inverters are better geared towards commercial solar applications rather than residential because of their large output ratings.

If you are setting up for your business, you may want to hire someone who knows how to assemble the system optimally to get the most out of it. Mistakes become more costly when the gear used is more expensive.

Awards

This company is larger (and has more resources, way more) than the other solar system manufacturing brands and have (a few) patents and awards to show off.

They have won the Zayed Future Energy Prize for their desire to drive innovation, efficiency and renewable energy.

In 2014, they registered more patents at the European Patent Office (EPO) than any other company. The popular Reuters media group named the company in the world’s top 100 innovators for their commitment to the developing of innovative technologies.

The ABB TRIO 20.0 Inverter

Initial Thoughts

Instyle Solar Product Review- Inverter ABB - TRIO-20.0-OUTD This is a three-phase inverter which should be considered as a system component by experienced solar users or people who are prepared to get into the calculations.

Three alternating electrical signals are generated that are equal in size but are in different phases.

In general, three-phase inverters generate more power than single-phase units and this one gives the customer more options in terms of output voltage control.

The entire point of this inverter is to provide more flexibility for installers who want to maximise the performance of their system and are willing put more thought into the setup.

Flat Efficiency Curve

One major advantage of three-phase power is that the efficiency is more constant and hence more reliable.

The amount of solar energy available to convert to other forms of energy changes throughout the day (based on the sun’s mood, of course) but with the TRIO the efficiency will not drop at the lower power input/output stages as is often the case with other inverters.

The graph below shows the variation in efficiency for different levels of power. The maximum efficiency of the inverter is 98.2%.

Instyle Solar Product Review- Inverter ABB - TRIO-20.0-OUTD Efficiency Curves

String Inverter for Increased Voltage Output

One way to achieve a high-power output in a solar system is to get a high output voltage from the solar panels.

The higher voltage generally results in a lower cost for the Balance of System (BOS) because less boosting of the voltage will take place and cheaper electronics can be used. This increased voltage output is achieved in string inverters by connecting the solar panels in series rather than in parallel.

Most string inverters have the solar modules themselves included in the end-product but for the TRIO 20.0 you will have to get the panels yourself, which makes life a little more complex if you are new to this.

Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)

This is a feature all (good) inverters must have to get the high efficiency expected from this part of the system.

The TRIO 20.0 can get good results by being able to process two strings with independent Maximum Power Point Tracking circuits.

Instyle Solar Product Review- Inverter ABB - TRIO-20.0-OUTD MPPT

This dual input section increases accuracy because if the strings being fed into the inverter are not current-matched the MPP being calculated may be incorrect.

The powerful onboard microprocessor provides real-time MPPT at a speed that is rare in most inverters.

Feed-in Control

In Australia, the government pays for electricity fed into the grid and with three-phase inverters there will be times when too much electrical energy is being generated. When more energy is being generated than is needed, the rest can be fed into the grid.

However, most inverters do not provide you the option of controlling how much feed-in is taking place—but this one does.

Natural Convection Cooling

This inverter is designed in such a way to allow the natural flow of air in and out of the device to take care of most of the cooling process.

The more complex the cooling system is, the more likely it will require maintenance at some stage during the lifespan of the device.

The vast amount of experience ABB has shows in the little things like this because there is a big difference between theory and what practically works.

Wide Input Voltage Range

This is where a lot of users can save on cost because most inverters require fairly long strings of solar cells connected to them in order to operate effectively.

There are two microprocessors and two DC/DC DSPs (Digital Signal Processors) that provide control for the output voltage of the inverter.

A lot of calculations go into the nonlinear control of voltage from the panels but ABB engineers have designed much more complicated devices in other fields, so we believe they are good enough to get this right.

Multiple Grid Connection Options

The TRIO can be connected to the grid without the need for a transformer.

Once it has been set up, you can choose from a number of grid standards that have been pre-loaded. Australians are covered in this regard and this is something we would have loved to have earlier in life because connecting to the grid yourself can be a little time consuming— not that we're complaining!

Technical Specifications

Normally we would say that you only really need to know four or five values to set up your inverter, but this inverter gives the installer more flexibility and if you are buying you need to know all the features you are getting with this.

The full data sheet is available here.

Below is a table with the major features that we’re going to briefly go over:

 

TRIO 20.0

TRIO 27.6

Absolute Maximum DC Input Voltage

1000V

Start-up DC Input Voltage (Vstart)

430V

Operating DC Input Voltage Range

0.7 x Vstart…950 V (min 200 V)

Rated AC Power

20000W

27600W

Maximum AC Output Power

22000W

30000W

Maximum Apparent Power

22200VA

30670VA

Rated AC Grid Voltage

400V

AC Output Voltage Range

320V-480V

Output Frequency Range (fmin...fmax)

47...53 Hz / 57…63 Hz

Total Current Harmonic Distortion

< 3%

Absolute Maximum DC Input Voltage

The strings of solar cells connected cannot have a voltage that is higher than this value. The whole point of strings of solar cells is a high voltage, but there is such a thing as too much, so some protection may need to be organised.

Start-up DC Input Voltage

If you are designing your own system basically without this amount of voltage across the input to the inverter, the inverter will not start up. Please note that this is higher than the input voltage so if your inverter is not starting this is the prime suspect.

Operating DC Input Voltage Range

This is the allowable range of input voltages into the TRIO. If the input is too low, the inverter will shut down and in the less likely event that the input voltage exceeds the limits, the protective circuity of the TRIO will kick in—but it is better to choose solar modules that prevent this from happening. You never know how much damage can take place before the inverter shuts down and we're not keen to find out.

Rated AC Power

This is the highest output power the inverter will deliver under normal operating conditions. In other words, you cannot intentionally get more than this amount of power coming out of the inverter and so you should design with this value in mind.

Maximum AC Output Power

This is the maximum amount of power the inverter can have flowing from it without damage being caused. The output power of the inverter only reaches this value during what we call surges. A surge is a spike in the output voltage of the inverter which can be caused by reactive loads connected across the inverter outputs.

Maximum Apparent Power

Power being delivered by the inverter can be divided into two portions: active power and reactive power. Active power is what actually gets used by electrical appliances but because there is reactive power, as well the combination of these two together, it may appear to be higher than what can actually be used.

The total overall power (both active and reactive) is referred to as apparent power and is useful for those looking to design their own custom solar system.

Rated AC Grid Voltage

This is the voltage that the inverter will be at when connecting to the national grid. The output of the inverter must be controlled if you are to connect to the grid.

One way to transfer electrical energy to the grid is to change the phase of the output voltage while keeping the voltage constant at this value.

AC Voltage Range

Another way to transfer electrical energy to the grid is to keep the phase of the output voltage constant while changing the output voltage level. The TRIO gives the designer the opportunity to do this.

Output Frequency Range (fmin...fmax)

When connecting the inverter to the grid, depending on which electrical standards you adhere to, the frequency needs to be constantly within the allowed limits.

The national electricity grid in Australia has a frequency of 50Hz so you need to make sure you get the version of the inverter with frequency between 47Hz and 53Hz.

Total Current Harmonic Distortion

Alternating current is constantly changing in value but if measured over time follows the sine wave pattern. Some sine waves are not as accurate as others but when connecting to the national grid they must meet a standard. Total harmonic distortion is a measure of how much the AC output voltage conforms to the shape of a sine wave.

Conclusion

We love this inverter and what it can do, but this is not for everyone. If you have a specific idea of a custom system you want to build, then this is the inverter. As long as the solar panels you connect to this are of similar quality, you will not run into any issues.

If you are new to this, you should still be able to install it well enough, but if you are not going to take advantage of the monitoring and control it would be a bit of a waste. The TRIO is more for small businesses or very large households with ambitious feed-in tariff goals. ABB know their stuff and have proved it again. Respect.

Next Step

If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!

Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.

Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.

Photo credit: Depositphotos

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