In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the mismatch losses attributed to the solar array and reviewing the DC optimizer solution Tigo TS4-R.
The purpose of your solar system is to make sure you capture the most energy from the modules. However, there are several factors that may negatively influence the power output of your system:
- Available solar resource (not a problem for Australia, but some countries suffer through months of poor to no sunlight)
- Thermal losses (may occur if the panels have poor air-flow on the underside)
- Wiring losses associated with voltage drop in the PV array or resistive losses in the cables that go from the PV modules to the inverter (DC side) and from the inverter to the load (AC side).
- Module quality loss related to the reliability of the manufacturers’ power output
- Inclination and orientation angles (the highest solar radiation can be achieved if PV arrays are oriented towards the north in Australia)
- Mismatch losses (the difference between the sum of all maximum power points in each independent sub-module)
- Soiling (anything from bird droppings to construction activities nearby can affect the performance of the PV system if accumulation is allowed).
- Reflection losses (some modules have an anti-reflective coating).
- Shading (if even part of a module is shaded, a larger area of the module also stops producing energy)
Most of these factors can be considered in the design stage of the project. In this article, we’ll discuss how mismatch losses can affect the performance of a solar array and what can be done to prevent the issues.
About Mismatch Losses
Differences in the manufacturing of modules, degradation rates over time on each module, shading or strings in multiple orientations will all induce mismatch losses that reduce the maximum power output (MPP) of the modules. Moreover, lack of reliability and monitoring at a module level are other downsides to this configuration.
Tigo is a Silicon Valley-based company with more than 10 years experience in the market. SMA Solar Technology is one of the investors of the company.
Back in 2007, Tigo started developing external maximizers on the backside of the modules to mitigate mismatch losses. In 2012 the company shifted its focus to the smart module business (prefabricated panels with a DC-optimizer) in collaboration with module manufacturing companies like JinkoSolar, Canadian Solar, Trina Solar and others.
Finally, in 2015, Tigo presented the third generation of the product, the TS4-R solution.
The product consists of a retrofit or add-on maximizer solution that basically adds a DC optimizer at module level to any existing PV array.
In other words, there is no need to install a prefabricated smart module. For you, the only difference is that your panels will have an extra device on the right upper corner that will simply connect to the junction box and increase your power output every time.
The TS4-R has two components:
1. TS4-R Base
2. TS4-R Cover
The base contains the support and the cables for connection to the junction box and to provide the optimised output, while the cover contains all the electronics necessary to perform the MPPT function along with other features.
The fun thing about this product is that the cover is removable and can even be changed for another cover with other functionalities.
The TS4 Models
Tigo divided the TS4-R covers into five main groups:
1. Diode Optimizer (TS4-D)
Similar to a standard junction box with better heat dissipation and three bypass Schottky diodes applicable to conventional and smart modules.
2. Monitoring Optimizer (TS4-M)
Reduces O&M costs and allows you to track the performance of each module plus the benefits from TS4-D.
3. Safety Optimizer (TS4-S)
Meets Rapid Shutdown Requirements, plus the benefits of TS4-D and TS4-M.
4. Power Optimizer (TS4-O)
Accurately performs the MPPT function increasing energy yield and presenting a flexible solution for shading and ageing, plus all the benefits of TS4-D, TS4-M and TS4-S.
5. Long String Optimizer (TS4-L)
The integrated solution from Tigo, containing all the features and benefits from the previous models, plus a string optimization aiming for lower wire-losses, reductions in mismatch losses due to different wire length and the capability to install more optimizers connected in a single string.
All of these models come integrated with the Tigo’s Ultra High Definition (UHD) Core Technology for superior performance which supports a maximum voltage of 75 VDC at STC and a maximum short-circuit current of 12 A which allows it to interact with modules up to 475 W and perform with 99.6% efficiency.
Tigo vs Enphase
The decision between DC optimizers and microinverters is always variable and depends on many factors: the type of system, the desires of the customer and also the costs.
For instance, reliability is always a favourable factor for microinverters, while energy storage is usually a factor in favour of DC optimizers.
For more details on how to make the right decision between Enphase and a DC maximizer company like Tigo Energy you can go to this article: Microinverters Vs DC Optimizers: What’s Best for Your System?
Tigo vs SolarEdge
Here the decision is a little tougher as both of these are advocates of DC optimizers, so which one is best?
Unlike Tigo, SolarEdge offers a single model with the same features that only vary in capacity and adaptability to the module.
Both of them are able to do monitoring and both of them can perform the MPPT function.
However, Tigo has a crucial advantage that SolarEdge does not.
Tigo’s optimizer can be adapted to any existing PV system and especially, can be adapted to any inverter (grid-tied, battery-based or hybrid), while SolarEdge requires the installation of a special inverter of the same brand.
Moreover, the variability between different features makes Tigo’s optimizer a direct solution to the specific needs of every customer.
Tigo Energy offers the TS4-R which is a DC-optimizer solution with a varied range of features to choose from, for all types of users.
If your goal is merely to monitor your performance at the module level, you can choose the TS4-M for a lower price, but if you aim to achieve all the benefits from DC-optimizers it is best to select the TS4-L!
These characteristics have allowed Tigo Energy to stay on top among the greatest brands in the solar industry, potentially driving interest from other important companies like SMA into making allegiance with Tigo, as you can see here:
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Photo credit: Tigo