GE's New Solar Inverter Tackles Challenges of Integrating to
Dec 09, 2009 - energycentral.com
used in GE’s (NYSE:GE) wind turbines, known for proven performance and reliability,
is now bringing similar benefits to large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Building on a platform of power electronics, monitoring and controls that enhance
wind energy grid integration, GE has developed a 600 kW solar inverter, which
includes grid-friendly features to deliver performance in large-scale solar installations
similar to conventional power plants.
Based on the proven design
of the power converters that GE manufactures for its fleet of 12,000+ 1.5-megawatt
wind turbines, the new solar inverter is suited for use in the multi-megawatt
solar projects that are becoming an increasing percentage of new installations.
“We believe that there will be significant growth in large-scale projects as the
United States and the world strive to meet renewable energy targets,” said Victor
Abate, vice president-renewables for GE Power & Water. “The challenge will be
integrating these larger solar projects—which are also powered by a variable fuel
source—in a reliable way.”
Because the energy output of a
solar power plant is directly related to the availability of the sun, anticipating
the load that the solar power plant will provide can present a challenge for the
utility grid, causing the plant to trip off-line. In order to ensure that solar
power plants stay online, providing cleaner, more reliable energy, the variability
needs to be managed so that it is more predictable—even during disturbances such
as intermittent cloud cover.
GE’s wind converters include
control functions that enhance integration—a requirement to meet grid codes. SunIQ*,
GE’s suite of solar plant monitoring and controls, can manage voltage in a similar
way. “As variable energy such as wind and solar continues to come online, there
will be ongoing challenges with integrating into the grid,” said Abate. “Solar
integration will need to be managed in order to ensure that it operates as a ‘good
citizen’ on today’s grid.”
According to New Energy Finance,
demand for solar energy has grown about 30% per year for the past 15 years, while
hydrocarbon energy demand typically grows less than 2% a year. As wind and solar
power plants increase in size and number to meet these demands, they are beginning
to have a greater impact on the grid, displacing more traditional sources of power
While some software changes were needed to modify
GE’s wind converter technology for solar applications, the hardware has remained
nearly the same, enabling GE to leverage its expertise in the manufacture of its
extremely reliable wind converters. Engineering and design were completed at GE’s
controls center of excellence in Salem, Va. The company already makes 4,000 wind
converters annually and has increased production at the Salem facility to include
solar. In addition to experience, GE offers the global resources necessary to
effectively maintain high levels of performance in large-scale installations,
including a global services organization, 24/7 remote monitoring and diagnostics
centers and parts support.
For more information about GE’s
solar inverter, go to www.ge-energy.com/solarinverter.
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