Intelligent Inverters: The Integration Key for Renewable Energy

Although the move to renewable energy sources has been relatively slow in the past, the pace of alternative energy generation continues to grow.  For example, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, new solar energy generation in the United States grew 76 percent in 2012.  For the utility segment of solar energy “construction of renewable power plants” accounted for 54 percent or about 1.8 GW of the installed solar panels in 2012.  In addition, over 4 GW of utility-scale construction is taking place in the U.S. for additional renewable power generators.

But, how does the direct current (DC) energy of renewables get converted into alternating current (AC) in order to be moved into a utility’s grid? Intelligent inverters are the key. Inverters has always had the role of taking DC energy and converting it into AC. However, with the growing renewable energy development, the intelligent inverters market is set to expand.  Increasingly, operators of utilities and electrical grids are utilizing inverters to regulate the flow of energy from solar and other “green” energy sources.

With the growth of solar and wind energy, the operators of utilities and electrical grids have been analyzing equipment needs to manage the movement of DC renewable energy into the AC grid.  This is especially an issue because unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy may fluctuate from day-to-day due to the hours of sunshine or the power of the wind at any given point of the day.  This upsets the balance of supply and demand needed for a smooth operating grid. In the past inverters would shut off if the supply was below a certain threshold amount, thereby limiting the amount of energy being sent from renewable sources into the grid.

However, inverters that have been engineered with intelligence are one of the best methods to manage this imbalance of the ever-changing supply of renewable energy.  With these new software based inverter functions, renewable power continues to move into the grid even when the amount of voltage changes.  With these intelligent inverters, lower voltages  from solar and wind are sent into the grid for usage by the utility company.  For example, PG&E in California utilizes intelligent inverters with low-voltage ride through functions for their solar power generators, so that no energy is wasted.

IGBT based DSP (Digital Signal Processing) provides real-time instantaneous information regarding all performance parameters of the inverter.  This provides overall energy savings and also active harmonic cancellation.  The DSP inverter increases reliability because it is software-based and therefore less likely to encounter an issue, unlike inverters that do not utilize this technology.  Software-based DSP inverters can be reprogrammed quickly and easily if needed.

PCTI can help reduce time to market and implement DSPs into customer’s products fast because of the company’s extensive experience researching, designing, and implementing DSPs into power electronic equipment to meet customer needs.  Contact us to get assistance with:  DSP Software, DSP Hardware (Board design & production), Control System Retrofit with DSP, Prototyping, Intelligent power electronic modules, Modular Subassemblies, Production of power electronic/power conversion equipment, or Turn-key projects.

About PCTI

PCTI designs and manufactures leading edge power electronic equipment in the highest power ranges. PCTI’s engineering staff has in-depth knowledge in the key areas of power conversion such as power semiconductor analysis and application, thermal exchange, magnetic design, packaging, DSP (digital signal processor) control for inverters, frequency converters, DC power supplies, battery chargers and dischargers. PCTI is a certified DBE woman-owned business. Contact us for more information on our products, applications assistance, or pricing.