Power Electronics

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Power electronics, critical components in photovoltaic (PV) systems and the larger electric grid, are used to convert electricity from one form to another and deliver it from generation to end consumption. The objective of the Power Electronics activity area is to develop solutions that leverage transformative power electronics technologies—including wide band gap semiconductors, advanced magnetics, thin film capacitors, and advanced system design and packaging—to enhance solar power conversion and energy flow in the transmission and distribution grids and on customer premises.

 

 

CHALLENGES

One of the most exciting and challenging applications of power electronics is the goal of enabling interconnection and integration of hundreds of gigawatts of solar generation into the electric power system. The key design considerations in power electronics are: features and functionalities, performance, reliability, and cost. While challenges exist in each design space, the bigger challenge is to optimize the trade-offs for design parameters so that power electronic systems meet all objectives simultaneously. In order to accomplish this, the solar office supports cost reductions and efficiency improvements through: innovative circuit design, development of advanced components and optimal control; development of power electronics technologies to improve energy yield while reducing balance of system (BOS) hardware costs, process costs and installation time; development and field demonstration of smart inverter functionalities; and development of accelerated life testing methods and physics of failure models to predict faults and improve reliability.

METRICS

Technical Metrics for Power Electronics and Related Aspects
  • Power Electronics Ratings: 250 W (microinverters) – MW level (utility scale)
  • Conversion Efficiency > 98%
  • Service Life > 25 years
  • Power Density > 100 W/in3 (residential and small commercial applications)
  • System Cost < $0.10/W (utility); < $0.125/W (commercial); < $0.15/W (residential)
    • Lifetime cost of the power electronic device, including initial capital cost and the operation and maintenance (O&M) cost over the life of service.  
  • Grid-Support Functions — Compliant with Grid Codes
    • Smart inverter functions (volt/var, volt/watt, frequency/watt, voltage ride-through, power factor control, reactive power support, ramp rate control, etc.) activated either autonomously through default settings or remotely through utility SCADA commands. Compliant with ANSI, IEEE and NERC standards.
  • Interoperability
    • Compliant with open standards including SunSpec Modbus, Smart Energy Profile (SEP 2), IEC 61850, Multispeak and DNP3.​

PROJECTS