Who are they?
Sungrow is a Chinese inverter manufacturer, based out of Hefei (a few hundred kilometres west of Nanjing and Shanghai). It was founded in 1997 by Cao Renxian, a professor at Hefei University of Technology. As of 2019, they have a 15% market share globally, being in 60 countries and having installed over 82GW of capacity (that’s the equivalent to over 16 million standard homes!) One of their most famous projects is the Sungrow Huainan Solar Farm, a floating PV farm in China. The farm, which consists of 166,000 panels and a capacity of 40MW, floats on a lake that was once a coal mine, and was once the world’s largest floating PV installation.
Sungrow have had an office in Sydney since 2012, and are easy to contact by phone if you have any issues.
What do they do?
We use quite a lot of Sungrow PV inverters at GI Energy. They’re cheaper than the Fronius, and a bit cheaper than the ABB, but still have excellent performance – they’re just slightly less flexible when it comes to string configuration (kind of).
Sungrow have inverters for every system size, from 2kW residential ones, to MW-scale utility solutions. Their single-phase residential model is the Crystal, from 2kW to 8kW. They have a single-phase hybrid (i.e. with a built-in battery charger) model called the SH5K (yes, it’s 5kW), which we’ve installed literally hundreds of for the recent Queensland Government battery rebate scheme. There’s also four three-phase options under the M/MT model name – 5kW, 10kW, 15kW, and 20kW. Finally there’s the larger commercial ones, the CX models, coming in at 30kW, 50kW and 110kW.
All the inverters have multiple MPPTs, allowing you to have two strings of different orientations solar panels (e.g. east and west). This is actually one advantage they have over the Fronius – the Fronius Eco, the largest inverters Fronius do at 25kW and 27kW, only have a single MPPT. The equivalent Sungrow, the SG30CX, has three. Even the new Fronius inverters, the 50kW and 100kW ones expected in 2020, are only expected to have a single MPPT. That said, the Fronius inverters do have a lower minimum MPPT voltage, meaning they can have fewer panels on one MPPT – for example, you’d need at least five Hyundai 300W solar panels for the Sungrow SG5K-D, whereas with the Fronius Primo 5.0-1 you could get away with four (or perhaps three). That said, normally you wouldn’t want such few panels on a string, and even so, there are solutions to get around this limit (using optimisers etc).
All the inverters have built-in WiFi, and the non-Crystal models all include an ethernet port if you want to hard-wire the inverter to your network. This allows you to monitor your system using their iSolarCloud service, which includes a phone app and an online web browser portal, so you can see how much energy your system is generating. The SH5K hybrid inverter also includes a built-in smart meter; for the others this must be purchased separately, much like you have to for most other inverters – with this addition, you can also view your energy consumption, and how much energy you export to the grid. The SH5K also lets you see you battery’s state of charge. In other words, you can see everything you’d want to! We always recommend monitoring for a system, so you can both be notified of any issues, and take better control of your energy usage to reduce your bills even further (e.g. putting devices on timers, seeing faulty devices causing high energy drains).
You’ll get a minimum five (5) year warranty with every Sungrow inverter. This covers parts, freight, and labour – that is, everything to keep it working. They call this “standard warranty” The Crystal inverters have a 5+5 warranty, much like Fronius, where if you register online (for free!) you get an extra five years of parts-only cover. The CX inverters include 10 years standard warranty as default. All inverters have the option for you to buy another five years of warranty (for 10 years total), either standard of parts-only.
Another thing Sungrow makes is batteries. Well, technically, they use Samsung battery cells (seen as some of the most reliable in the industry); Sungrow just package them up nicely into 4.8kWh units (with protection, connections, etc) to go with their SH5K inverter. Up to three can be combined for up to 14.4kWh of energy storage.
That’s about it for Sungrow. Excellent product at a great price – far better than the similarly priced Growatts and Goodwes, and not much worse than the premium Fronius.