SMA q&a

Q&A with SMA

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Outside of solar panels, solar inverters are the most important part of a solar energy system, responsible for converting electricity generated by your solar panels into usable electricity for your home’s electronics and appliances. When it comes to deciding which equipment is best for your solar panel system, you have many different inverters to choose from, including options for both the type of technology (string vs. microinverter vs. string + power optimizers), and well as the inverter brand. 

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One of the most popular manufacturers of string solar inverters is SMA. Headquartered in Niestetal, Germany, SMA has sales and service subsidiaries in 18 different countries. EnergySage recently sat down with SMA to learn more about their history, their most popular products, and what differentiates them against other inverter companies. Here’s what they had to say about the perks of SMA and the Sunny Boy inverters in their own words: 

The history of SMA

[EnergySage] Tell us a bit about SMA – when was SMA founded, and how have you grown?

[SMA] SMA was founded in 1981 in Germany, where we’re still headquartered. As a leading global specialist in photovoltaic system technology, SMA is setting the standards today for the decentralized, digital and renewable energy supply of tomorrow. More than 3,000 SMA employees in 18 countries have devoted themselves to this task. 

Our innovative solutions for every type of photovoltaic application offer people and companies worldwide greater independence in meeting their energy needs. In collaboration with our partners and customers, we are helping people transition to a self-sufficient, decentralized and renewable energy supply. SMA inverters have been installed in more than 190 countries worldwide, with a total output of more than 100 gigawatts (Editor’s note: a gigawatt is a million kilowatts). 

SMA’s multi-award-winning technology is protected by more than 1,600 patents and utility models. Since 2008, the Group’s parent company, SMA Solar Technology AG, has been listed on the Prime Standard of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (S92) and is listed in the SDAX index.

[ES] What’s your company’s mission?

[SMA] SMA’s mission is to make the installation and operation of photovoltaic power plants even simpler, more reliable, safer, and above all, more cost-effective, through continuous development and innovations in system technology. We want to increase technical progress and the worldwide spread of photovoltaics with our work.

The Sunny Boy: SMA’s most popular string inverter

[ES] How does SMA’s Sunny Boy inverter compare to the other options available on the market?

[SMA] The Sunny Boy produces more energy on an annual basis than competing models using traditional optimizers. [Editor’s note: this is a bold claim! This particular claim is backed by a 2019 study from the University of Southern Denmark, which has been rebuked by rival inverter manufacturers. It’s worth doing your own research on this.] This is thanks to SMA’s ShadeFix optimization, which is a proprietary, integrated inverter technology that optimizes PV system energy production in every situation – even when shading occurs. It also uses fewer components on the roof than traditional optimizers, providing greater reliability and investment security for system owners.

What’s more, SMA is also the only manufacturer that offers a proactive monitoring and service solution for free with every Sunny Boy inverter. SMA Smart Connected monitors the inverter and in the event of an error, notifies the installer. It also can offer automated service guidance and even proactively ship a replacement. SMA has taken the guesswork out of service, which means our system owners can rest easy. Instead of owners having to painstakingly look at every module themselves to ensure proper performance, Smart Connected automates the entire process and watches for issues 24/7.

[ES] What would you say the best use cases are for the Sunny Boy? Who should consider installing this technology?

[SMA] The Sunny Boy is the ideal choice for residential PV installations because of its long history of durability and reliability. In fact, the Sunny Boy is the only residential inverter installed and operational in systems that are 20+ years old. It can be used in any rooftop or ground mount scenario, even in shaded conditions thanks to SMA’s ShadeFix optimization.

The Sunny Boy can also be used in storage applications when paired with a Sunny Boy Storage and your choice of one of many highly respected battery suppliers. Storage use cases include energy management for system owners in time-of-use utility jurisdictions as well as whole home backup for the ultimate peace of mind.

[ES] What warranties do you offer for the Sunny Boy inverter? Does your warranty cover the cost of shipping and labor for replacements?

[SMA] While anyone can issue an attractive warranty on paper, SMA believes its German engineering and superior quality represent its best guarantee. For owners needing that extra peace of mind, however, SMA offers extended warranties up to 20 years, which includes the cost of shipping as well as a service rebate for the installer to offset costs for the owner.

[ES] Where are SMA products available? Do you have a certified installer network?

[SMA] SMA products are available for installers to purchase across the United States through a network of trusted Authorized Distributors. SMA PowerUP Partners are a network of trusted solar energy professionals who are trained to install and service your residential or commercial SMA solution. If you’re looking for a qualified SMA Partner in your area, the SMA PowerUP Trusted Solar Energy Partner Network is all you need!

Advice for homeowners evaluating inverter options

[ES] What should customers consider when shopping for a solar inverter?

[SMA] Not all solar inverters are alike, so look for a reputable partner like SMA, with more than 40 years of experience and a proven track record for quality and reliability. And be sure to ask your solar installer what brand of inverter is the most reliable and why they recommend one inverter over another. At SMA, we believe you shouldn’t put more components on the roof than are absolutely necessary, which is why SMA’s ShadeFix takes optimizers or microinverters off the roof and places them in the inverter. And don’t forget, the Sunny Boy inverter was developed with precision German engineering and represents decades of experience across the globe.

Get quotes including SMA inverters on EnergySage

The best way to see the true value of different solar technologies and equipment brands is to compare them yourself on EnergySage. When you register for a free account on EnergySage, you can specifically request certain types or brands of equipment, review equipment head to head using our buyer’s guide, and even compare custom solar quotes from local installers all from the comfort of your couch. Get started today to receive quotes for SMA inverters on EnergySage.

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About Spencer Fields

Spencer is the Manager of Market Strategy & Intelligence at EnergySage, where he writes about all things energy. Prior to joining EnergySage, he spent five years at Synapse Energy Economics, providing environmental, economic and policy analysis for public interest groups. Spencer has degrees in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies from Brown University, meaning when he's not in the office you can find him outside or traveling somewhere to work on his Spanish.

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