PV Tech exclusive: Huawei’s Chen GuoGuang discusses latest innovations, staying ahead in the industry and prospects for PV and energy storage

By David Evans

PV Tech sat down with Chen GuoGuang, Huawei Digital Power’s President for Smart PV & ESS Business, to discuss the company’s latest solutions, how it plans to maintain its leading position in the sector and the future outlook for the PV and energy storage industries.

Huawei Digital Power is a leader in the integration of digital and power electronics technologies and has created a suite of smart PV and energy storage solutions to address the needs of the utility scale, commercial and industrial and residential sectors. 

Q:What would you say are the highlights among the new products and solutions Huawei is unveiling at this year’s SNEC exhibition? Will these innovations be launched simultaneously in overseas markets?

ADuring SNEC, we have introduced our full-scenario Smart PV & ESS solution for the utility, commercial & industrial and residential sectors, which we describe as full-scenario. In all three cases, the aim of our solution is to help customers and partners to achieve lower LCOE and enhance the safety of the applications used.

Another very important feature is that, for all the solutions, we are now using grid forming technology, which can be used to support the grid instead of impacting it.

For all our products, we are adopting an innovative architecture. For example, you know that Huawei has been leading the string concept in the industry for the past decade. When we look at the industry’s overall string inverter market-share, we see it has increased from 40% in 2014 to almost 80% last year. We are proud to see Huawei leading this trend and now many manufacturers have followed.

We have extended this architecture to our energy storage products as well, because it’s clear that, with the string concept, a customer can see more benefit in terms of a levelized cost of storage.

After SNEC, we also plan to launch these new solutions to overseas markets during Intersolar Europe.

Q: The PV and energy storage sectors are currently seeing significant growth and a number of new entrants, leading to a crowded and competitive market. How does Huawei plan to maintain its leading position and sustainable development amidst this intense competition?

A: The market is growing. Products are improving. The advantage for Huawei is that we have invested a lot in R&D. We do what we say, so we now have three ‘generations’ and a research and development strategy which covers any of our solutions and products. We have three teams, the first of which is focusing on research, on technology for 3 to 5 years into the future. The second team is concentrating on technology development, on solutions for the next 1 to 3 years and our third team is responsible for product development, meaning products planned for delivery within the year.

With this three generational R&D strategy and continued heavy investment, I believe that we are better positioned to enable each of our products and solutions to perform well on release.

There is also what we hear from feedback from the market, of course. If you look at key features, either at product or solution level, you will find that what we ultimately deliver has been influenced by what the market has told us. 

We always want to be leading the industry standard, as in the case of the string concept I mentioned earlier. It’s the same with smart string energy storage systems, in that the final offering has evolved during the last two years, from product to solution. For utility-scale, this year we launched the smart PV generator, by combining smart PV plus energy storage systems.

From last year to this year, we are commissioning the biggest microgrid in the world in Saudi Arabia. That involves 400MW of PV plus a 1.3 GWh power battery. It is going to supply power to more than 1 million people, so is clearly very much a flagship project.

Once we commission this project, we can use the solution for other areas, of course. We are changing the control model from current source to voltage source and we are able to equip this Smart PV & ESS generator with a similar feature to the synchronous condenser traditionally used by power plants.

With this innovation, a smart PV + ESS can be widely used with any grid. We believe this is a hugely important development which will enable PV to grow significantly over the coming 3 to 5 years.

We also have a one-stop solution for C&I and residential, based on modular power electronics and a full range of smart string energy storage systems. We have a charger for C&I and a fast charger together with PV storage. For residential, we combine PV and storage with an AC charger.

We also have our energy management systems, so you can see this is clearly a one-fits-all scenario, in which the customer can benefit from continually developing solutions.

Q: What is your perspective on the outlook for this year’s PV and storage market? How do you see global installation expectations and the future of combined solar-storage solutions?

A: PV markets have grown from last year from, say, 280GW to 300GW up to now, so this figure will probably reach 500GW. We are seeing significant growth in China, as well as in overseas markets. In terms of storage, I think we are also seeing a clear trend for fast growth. This is due to both PV and wind applications, where there is a clear demand for renewable power plants to incorporate storage to support the grid. Grid forming technology is also being developed for use with renewable plants, as you know.

Cumulative renewable energy installations have already reached relatively high levels. For PV it’s over 1,400GW, for wind, it’s between 700GW to 800GW.  Grid compatibility and stability is becoming a challenge, however, which is why the combination of PV and storage is becoming increasingly important.

This is a clear trend and I see renewable power plants, both solar and wind based, incorporating storage in their future planning, going on to stabilize the grid by applying grid forming technology within the solution.

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