GE eyes 20-30MW solar inverters as it outlines next-gen technology plans

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Reddit
Email
GE's 1,500V inverter - by no means the final word in higher-voltage inverters, if the company's plans come to fruition. Image: GE Power Conversion.

The prospect of a 30MW solar inverter may seem a long way off, but it is very much in the sights of power electronics giant GE.  

In a briefing for journalists in London this morning, company executives outlined some of the next-generation technologies GE plans to implement across its fast-growing power conversion business, which encompasses solar, wind and other renewables. Much larger inverters and a shift to silicon carbide technology were both centre-stage in GE's plans.

This article requires Premium SubscriptionBasic (FREE) Subscription

Unlock unlimited access for 12 whole months of distinctive global analysis

Photovoltaics International is now included.

  • Regular insight and analysis of the industry’s biggest developments
  • In-depth interviews with the industry’s leading figures
  • Unlimited digital access to the PV Tech Power journal catalogue
  • Unlimited digital access to the Photovoltaics International journal catalogue
  • Access to more than 1,000 technical papers
  • Discounts on Solar Media’s portfolio of events, in-person and virtual

Or continue reading this article for free

In solar, arguably GE’s most significant contribution to date has been the development of the 1,500V inverter, which is rapidly becoming the industry standard as developers look for technologies that will help them squeeze the most of out their projects. This was underlined by news today that GE has signed a deal to provide its 1,500V inverters for 150MW of projects being built by developer Solargise in India.

But GE wants to go further, and said it expected medium-voltage architectures to be the next development in large-scale solar plant technology, opening up the prospect of much larger inverters.

“The reason we are at 1.5kV is because at the IEC standards, 1.5kV is the limit of low voltage standards and regulations,” said GE Power Conversion’s chief engineering officer Vlatko Vlatkovic. “In terms of staying in low voltage this is where it’s going to stop. But we are looking at higher power, higher voltage architectures now – so moving into medium voltage where we look at a lot larger blocks.”

Vlatkovic said GE’s largest inverter was around 4MW at the moment, but that at medium-voltage much larger units would be possible. “We’d be looking scale that up into 20-30MW blocks,” he said.

Such a development would clearly take time, with the industry only just catching up with the emergence of 1,500V inverters and developing the modules and other equipment to match the higher power.

But Vlatkovic said GE had already developed medium-voltage technologies from its work in other industries that it could apply to solar.

“We would develop the standards, and make sure that the industry adopts those and is able to move to more of a medium-voltage operating code,” he said. “In terms of technology, we are using technology from our medium-voltage drives, which is fairly standard technology, and scaling that up.”

Peter Oram, GE’s global renewables sales lead, added: “We would be using the same technology as we’re taking from oil and gas and marine and using it in a solar farm, so you would have solar farms with DC-AC, big inverters of 20-30MW.”

Silicon carbide

Another development GE expects to roll out imminently is to replace silicon with silicon carbide technology in all its power electronics products.

“It’s being introduced commercially gradually over this year and next year,” said Vlatkovic. “It took us 10 years to develop the technology, there’s still work going on, but now it’s mature enough that we’re starting to apply it – first, in aviation and medical industries, and finally now it’s starting to make sense in solar and wind.”

Vlatkovic said the advantage of silicon carbide over silicon was its ability to operate at higher temperatures with lower losses. “This will further increase the efficiency of the converters, reduce the losses by half, increase the power density by close to 50% and continue to drive the cost of the electricity down by 2, 3, 4% in both wind and solar,” explained Vlatkovic.

“So there’s a long runway for continued innovation to drive the cost down and the efficiency. It’s a very exciting time to be in this space, and we expect to continue to innovate,” he concluded.

Read Next

Sponsored
July 12, 2024
PV Tech spoke with Helena Li at the Intersolar Europe 2024 event, about how Trina is looking to ensure effective operations.
June 27, 2024
The Asia-Pacific region stands to benefit from localised balance of system manufacturing in its solar industry, the IEEFA said.
June 21, 2024
SolarEdge has unveiled new inverters, and a new operations and management (O&M) platform, at Intersolar Europe 2024.
June 21, 2024
Kontron has launched a subsidiary for the solar sector, as it looks to improve cybersecurity performance across the solar industry.
Sponsored
June 20, 2024
Hopewind will be demonstrating its products at Intersolar Europe 2024 in Munich and here, the company speaks to PV Tech about its work.
Sponsored
June 20, 2024
Hypontech offers inverters and energy storage systems in the distributed sector; here, PV Tech speaks to the company ahead of Intersolar 2024.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
July 31, 2024
1:00 PM (BST) / 2:00PM (CEST)
Solar Media Events
September 24, 2024
Warsaw, Poland
Solar Media Events
September 24, 2024
Singapore, Asia
Solar Media Events
October 8, 2024
San Francisco Bay Area, USA