$24 million awarded to US solar industry for integration research

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Twelve small steps for manufacturers. One giant leap for the US solar industry … In a bid to increase the uptake and effectiveness of solar power in the USA, the Bush administration through the Solar America Initiative has announced research grants for manufacturers totalling £24million in 2008. This could grow to as much as $40million dollars worth of funding by the end of 2009. The majority of grants were awarded for projects which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity through the development of less expensive, higher performing products to enhance the value of solar PV systems.

The energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM will provide project management support to these projects.

The projects selected for negotiation of awards focus on collaborative research and development by U.S. industry teams to develop products that will allow PV to become a more integral part of household and commercial smart energy systems. For example, research teams will work to develop intelligent system controls that integrate traditional building energy management systems with solar systems.  The developments will allow building energy managers to better respond to time-of-use pricing and weather conditions to minimize building energy costs and stabilize the effect on the electricity grid.

Apollo Solar (Bethel, Conn.):  To develop advanced modular components for power conversion, energy storage, energy management, and a communications portal for residential-size solar electric systems.  The inverters, charge controllers, and energy management systems will be able to communicate with utility energy portals to implement the seamless two-way power flows of the future.

EMTEC (Dayton, Ohio) Emerson Network Power, Liebert Corporation, Hull and Associates, and Ohio State University: To develop large, three-phase, highly efficient, small footprint, advanced and innovative power conversion, energy storage and energy management components for commercial- and utility-scale PV systems.  The new products will include an integrated grid interface controller that works in conjunction with a customer smart meter to respond to time of day pricing signals.  The total system provides improved economics for power distribution and minimizes wide fluctuations in supply and demand of electricity.

Enphase Energy Inc. (Petaluma, Calif.): To develop a complete module-integrated solar electric solution controlled by an energy management system, to interface with utilities and allow advanced control for modular utility-interactive applications.

General Electric (Niskayuna, N.Y.) and Sentech, Inc. in collaboration with candidate utilities including American Electric Power, Duke, and Hawaii Electric Company:  To develop product concepts for integrating solar PV generation with the electrical grid for commercial and residential use. The residential improvements will integrate energy storage, responsive loads, and utility demand side management and are expected to reduce homeowner energy bills and support utility needs to reduce peak loads. New and enhanced inverter and distribution system control concepts for both commercial- and utility-scale installations will be developed.

Nextek Power Systems (Detroit, Mich. and Hauppauge, N.Y.) with Houston Advanced Research Center: To modify an existing power gateway design to incorporate bi-directional current flow capability, higher voltage operation, and added functionalities that include integrated communications and an energy management system for value-added PV utility interconnections.

Petra Solar (Somerset, N.J.) with Florida Power Electronics Center, and Florida Solar Energy Center:  To focus on multi-layer control and communication with PV systems to achieve grid interconnectivity, cost reduction, system reliability, and safety – resulting in a cost competitive, easy to install, modular and scalable system.

Premium Power (North Reading, Mass.): To develop an inverter system that makes PV economically viable in terms of initial investment, operating costs, and system lifetime.  An intelligent PV system that optimizes the value of PV generation will be developed for commercial- and utility-scale applications with an advanced inverter having energy management.

Princeton Power Systems (Princeton, N.J.) with TDI Power and World Water and Solar Technologies Corp.: To develop a complete design for a 100-kW demand response inverter based on Princeton Power Systems’ proprietary inverter technology.  The design will be optimized for low-cost, high-quality manufacture, and will integrate control capabilities including dynamic energy storage and demand response through load control.

PV Powered (Bend, Ore.) with Portland General Electric Team, South Dakota State University, and Northern Plains Power Technologies:  To develop a suite of maximum power point tracking algorithms to optimize energy production from the full range of available and emerging PV module technologies with communications integration, facility energy management systems and utlity management networks.

SmartSpark Energy Systems, Inc. (Champaign, Ill.) with Evergreen Solar and Innovolt, Inc: To design, construct, test, and commercialize an alternating-current PV module with smart building systems interfaces that provide system diagnostics, data logging, and advanced utility interconnection.

The Florida Solar Energy Center of the University of Central Florida (Orlando, Fla.) with SatCon, Sentech, Inc., EnFlex, SunEdison, Northern Plains Power Technologies, Lakeland Electric Utilities and additional utilities: To develop new grid integration concepts for PV that incorporate optional battery storage, utility control, communication and monitoring functions, and building energy management systems. The Florida Solar Energy Center of the University of Central Florida will validate an anti-islanding strategy for PV inverters to allow PV generation to remain connected to the grid during some grid disturbances, while still meeting safety operation requirements. New inverter architectures with advanced controls will be introduced, bringing even more stability and security to the home.

VPT Inc. (Blacksburg, Va.) with Center for Power Electronics, Plug-in Conversions, Moonlight Solar, Breakell Inc., and Delta Electronics: To develop component circuits and an overall system design for an integrated energy system.  The R&D will include inverter controllers that can be used with existing inverters to add sophisticated home interoperability, active anti-islanding and intentional islanding control, and a bidirectional power converter designed for plug-connected vehicles. The bidirectional power converter will also be useable for stationary DC/AC grid-interactive applications.

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