The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded Solectria Renewables, $2.1 million to develop integrated smart-grid ready photovoltaic (PV) inverters with utility communications. Solectria will partner with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Detroit Edison, National Grid, and Xcel Energy. The contract is part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which supports the development of cost-competitive solar technologies.
The contract is designed to develop smart grid-ready inverters with grid support functionality and the necessary communication links with utilities to ensure the full value of distributed PV is achieved. The primary objectives of the program are to leverage ongoing investments and to expand PV inverter capabilities to enable grid operators to better utilize their grid assets.
Solectria Renewables chief technology officer, Michael Zuercher-Martinson, says, “We are honored to have been selected by the Department of Energy to receive this award, which is a reaffirmation of our leadership in the inverter space. Enabling utilities to control our SMARTGRID inverters (SGI) is the next big step towards a smarter grid that can accommodate a very high PV penetration density in a safe, secure, efficient and reliable manner.”
According to Solectria, new utility scale PV inverters do not integrate well “with existing distribution management system (DMS) control distribution switches, load-tap changers, capacitor banks, and other circuit operation distributed resources. Under this contract, EPRI and Solectria Renewables will integrate the DMS, enabling utilities to communicate different operating objectives such as a normal mode, with no disturbances, energy conservation mode, demand reduction mode, or grid-level emergency mode. This is essential to avoid operational problems and additional costs while reducing inverter maintenance.”
Detroit Edison, National Grid and Xcel Energy will establish test sites that will assess different aspects of the technologies being developed by EPRI and Solectria Renewables. When finished, the program will demonstrate end-to-end communication connectivity and control between the utility operations and distributed resources.
Solectria Renewables is the leading United States-based grid-tied photovoltaic inverter manufacturer for residential, commercial and utility-scale solar installations. For more information, visit www.solren.com