Thanks to the California Energy Commission we can see what a real inverter efficiency curve looks like, and compare it to the pvwatts model.

It turns out that the pvwatts model doesn’t match reality very well. The pvwatts nominal efficiency of 92% is well below the average of current inverters, and the 4th order polynomial is a rather poor fit to the shape of the efficiency curve.

The plot below shows the measured efficiency curve for a SatCon PVS-135 (green) and the pvwatts model (blue). Clearly there’s quite a bit of room improvement.

I’ve created a log function to model the inverter and plotted that in red. Substituting the improved model in pvwatts calculations results in about a 4.5% increase in annual energy.

Even if you don’t know what inverter will be used in a particular case, just increasing the nominal efficiency inside pvwatts from 92% to something around 95% seems reasonable given the test data on the CEC site.