A familiar name in the power generation world has moved into the solar photovoltaic inverter space. Using technology from its wind-power converters, GE has developed a 600KW PV inverter platform that features power electronics, monitoring, and controls designed for large-scale, multi-megawatt solar installations. The inverter features a peak conversion efficiency of >97% and a CEC weighted efficiency of >96.5%.
The unit uses a two-stage power conversion approach, which provides the output of the inverter at a standardized grid voltage of 480Vac. This voltage minimizes AC side current, eliminating the need for an intermediate transformer, resulting in higher conversion efficiency compared to a single-stage power conversion system, according to GE. If multiple converters are connected to a medium voltage grid, a standard medium voltage transformer can be used.
“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, VP of 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.”
GE’s wind converters include control functions that enhance integration—a requirement to meet grid codes. SunIQ, the company’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.”
While some software changes were required to modify GE’s wind converter technology for solar applications, the hardware has remained essentially the same, allowing the company to leverage its expertise in the manufacture of its wind converters.
Engineering and design were done at GE’s controls center of excellence in Salem, VA. The company already manufactures 4000 wind converters annually and has increased production at the Salem facility to include the solar inverters.