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It Almost Always Makes Sense to Spend Extra Money and Buy an MPPT Charge Controller

By KELI Nguyen Subscribe to RSS | June 22nd 2012 | Views:

As a solar installer I getr asked lots of questions. But lately I get the same question over and over...

Is a maximum power point tracking is required for my solar system?

MPPT or maximum power point tracking charge controllers are a relatively new product in the solar electricity industry. They have a few distinct advantages over the older styles of charge controllers.

Maximum Power Point charge controllers can:

1. Increase the output of your solar array by up to 30 percent:

This is the primary reason to design the MPPT charge controller. All solar modules have a maximum power point voltage or SWEET SPOT. The SWEET SPOT is the voltage at which a solar module will produce the most energy. An MPPT controller will connect to the solar module at the MPPT voltage and then lower the voltage to charge the battery. By connecting to the module at the maximum power point voltage, the output will be increased by up to 30 percent.

2. Make it possible to charge a lower voltage bank of batteries with a higher voltage solar module :

Before MPPT, you would have to choose a charge controller and solar modules according to the voltage of the battery bank. If you had a 48 volt battery bank, you had to use a 48 volt solar module and a 48 volt charge controller. If you decided to increase the battery bank voltage, you had to swap your solar module and your charge controller. Not anymore. Maximum power point charge controllers can take a higher voltage from the solar module and reduce it to charge the battery bank. As long as the solar module produces more voltage than the battery bank, the battery will be charged properly. If you decide to change the battery voltage later, the charge controller can be adjusted for the new voltage.

3. Allow you to transmit high voltage from your solar array ( keeping the amperage and wiring sizes lower) to your charge controller, and then reduce the voltage to the required battery bank voltage:

Another great benefit of many MPPT charge controllers is that they can accept voltages up to 250 volts. There is even at least one MPPT charge controller that can accept up to 600 volts DC and reduce it to charge a battery bank. Think about this. You have a long transmission distance between your solar array and your charge controller/battery bank. In the past you would have to transmit that electricity at 12, 24 or 48 volts. In a large array such as 10 kw, that would equate to 833 amps at 12 volts DC or 416 amps at 24 volts or 208 amps at 48 volts. Up the voltage to 600 and the amperage is only 16 amps. That equates to smaller wiring and far less loss to resistance in the wire.

Are MPPT charge controllers worth the extra investment? I would have to say YES in most cases.

One last thing to remember:

Solar modules must produce high enough volts to charge a given battery. For example: A 12 volt battery bank requires at least 15 or 16 volts from a solar module in order to charge. If the solar panel's voltage is lower than the battery, the battery will not be charged. Even with MPPT, a solar array's voltage must be higher to charge the battery. There is one new product being designed even now that will actually increase the voltage making it possible to charge a 24 volt battery with a 12 volt module. Check out our link below to find out which one????

KELI Nguyen - About Author:
Check out our charge controller page today to learn more about MPPT and other new developments.

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