There are over 1,600 off-grid inverters out there now in our power class, and coming out with 6 more means we had to make them exceptional. They are– the polar opposite of “me too” thinking, designed for “mission-critical” industrial applications.
Morningstar's New SureSine Off-grid Inverter Line
Q&A with | Morningstar Corporation
Tell us about Morningstar.
For over 30 years now we have been in a leadership position in solar charge controllers with over a dozen lines and over 40 models (counting Essential Series and SHS). In over 100 countries, used in mission-critical installations from pole to pole, highest reliability rate in the industry.
With all the experience in solar controllers, what made you get into inverters this year with your new SureSine line at RE+?
We've actually been in inverters for a while. Back in 2006 we developed what we now call the "SureSine Classic" as purpose-built solution for very demanding rural electrification applications. We've learned a lot in the intervening years and have brought that experience to bear on our 2nd generation of inverters.
What sets the new SureSine line apart then?
Good question! There are over 1,600 off-grid inverters out there now in our power class, and coming out with 6 more means we had to make them exceptional. They are– the polar opposite of “me too” thinking, designed for “mission-critical” industrial applications so important to Morningstar’s customers. Their foundation is a premium toroidal low-frequency transformer for improved sinewave stability and superior power quality. And, true Morningstar’s engineering principles, we eliminated the need for a cooling fan with advanced thermal design.
To that we added full communications capabilities, including USB, Ethernet, EIA-485, CANBUS, and Bluetooth for wireless communications—that includes wireless Android and iOS utility apps for set-up and monitoring our inverters using remote devices. We also designed-in AC hardwire and receptacle options on selected models, and multiple AC and DC voltage choices along with NRTL safety, noise and performance certifications to make SureSine a true world product. Most important, SureSine is engineered for system-level integration and communication with our existing controller product line. And that gets to the reason why we also decided to “reimagine” the charge controller itself with our second new product.
That’s the GenStar, correct? With your TriStar already an industry standard and your ProStars, SunSavers and others used in so many applications throughout the industry, why come out with the new GenStar?
As with the new inverters, the idea came partly from watching and listening to installers. In this case, also system integrators and designers. Do you have any idea how many accessories are required for the typical charge controller to control and communicate with a system? Sometimes a half dozen, with a hodge-podge of cables, dongles, brackets and other items to make them work. That gets expensive, inefficient and can compromise reliability. With GenStar, we elevated the term "seamless" from a buzzword to a design principle. Everything needed is already built-in for essential control and communications (list capabilities).
GenStar also has a feature called a ReadyRail: a built-in “dock” if you will that lets a system integrator add key features and capabilities either up-front or later as needed. We’ve engineered a line of snap-in modules that, once in place, integrate seamlessly with GenStar’s hardware and software– snap them in and they’re up and running. They include a ReadyBMS block for lithium battery communications and control, a ReadyShunt for enabling metering and monitoring, and a ReadyRelay for signaling and advanced load control. GenStar is a fully-integrated solar charging platform in every sense of the word
Are there any performance advantages with this approach? We see a lot of higher voltage controllers out there, especially in industrial systems. What does GenStar have to offer in that respect?
For one thing, the ReadyRail/ReadyBlock design has two significant advantages. First, it’s more reliable with everything built-in, as opposed to external accessories cobbled together. Second, it’s fully future-proofed– you buy what you need up-front, and if, for example, lithium batteries or generator control enter into the picture later you simply add a dedicated ReadyBlock.
But that gets to another advantage with GenStar, which is it’s power conversion capabilities. We designed the top of the line model to be rated at 200V input/100A maximum battery current, and all three models have 30A load control. That enables system PV array oversizing of up to 150%, very important for today’ higher module outputs and larger arrays. That’s a level of capacity that previously might have required multiples of the best charge controllers, such as our TriStar models, either for a larger array or to provide load control in addition to charging. GenStar does it all in one single product.
You mentioned other models as well?
Yes, we’ll be bringing out 60A and 80A versions alongside the flagship 100A model. All of them will support 200V input current and offer 30A load control, unique for controllers in this class.
Getting back to the SureSine inverters, what’s the range of the line?
The six introduced cover the powerange from 150W to 2500W. From our experience and in talking to customers about their needs, that nicely covers the “most valuable player” spread for small, off-grid industrial systems in diverse applications. Those include rural development, rural telecommunications and wireless service providers, oil & gas, and a lot more. But we also have options for 12V, 24 V and 48 V battery voltages, 50 or 60 HZ AC frequency operation, and 120 or 230V output. That, plus multiple AC terminal options results in a line that’s over 70 individual products wide, with more planned. SureSine is truly a world product in every respect, serving every market and application imaginable.
Bill joined Morningstar in 2000 as a design engineer in the new product development group. His career trajectory at Morningstar spans product design, support services, senior management, and strategy. Prior roles include oversight of the engineering team and technical support operations. He is a member of the Board of Directors and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and an MBA from University of Maryland College Park.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
With over 4 million products installed and sold since 1993-in some of the most extreme environments and mission-critical applications in the world-Morningstar Corporation is the world's leading supplier of solar controllers and inverters. The US-based, privately-owned company is headquartered in Newtown, Pennsylvania, with an engineering research and development center in Maryland, and a global network of dedicated, best-in-class distribution and manufacturing partners. With some three decades of consistent, independent ownership and management behind it, Morningstar today enjoys stability and staying power unique in the industry- a result of the high morale, independent culture carefully cultivated by its founders and their original vision.
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