KIT and SMA inaugurate test centres for storage and inverters

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Two separate testing centres involving utility-scale solar PV plants coupled with battery storage have been inaugurated in Germany over the past week.

A research experiment pairing a 1MW solar power station with 100kWh of lihtium-ion battery electricity storage has been launched by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in Baden-Württemberg, while inverter manufacturer SMA has also inaugurated a test and demonstration centre for its range of products in Niestetal near Kassel that is coupled with a 3.2MW solar farm.

The KIT project will see a 1MW solar array paired with a 100kWh electricity storage using lithium-ion batteries. In common with a handful of similar projects around the world, the project will aim to demonstrate how storage can help solve a raft of modern energy conundrums, including the grid integration of renewables and managing demand.

In addition to serving its main purpose as a research and development centre, the facility could meet around 2% of the electricity demand of KIT’s northern campus where it will be located. While requiring E1.5 million in investment to construct, it should result in electricity cost savings of E200,000 a year, meaning payback time will be well within the intended 20 year lifespan of the plant. Modules were supplied by Solarwatt, with inverters from Kostal Solar Electric, both German companies.

Research team leader Dr Olaf Wollersheim said: “This new research infrastructure allows us to study, on a relevant scale, the interplay of the latest generations of solar modules, power converters and lithium-ion batteries.”

The new KIT facility is part of the institute’s Competence E programme, an interdisciplinary project which aims to pool together KIT experts on a variety of electricity network issues. Around 25 experts work on various projects through the programme.

Meanwhile, although the test centre opened by SMA will also include the use and testing of battery storage, unlike the KIT test centre in Niestat which will focus primarily on storage, the SMA project will serve as a demonstration and testing park for a range of products and systems including inverters, combiner technology and medium-voltage components suitable for large-scale plants.

According to SMA, electricity generated by the project’s 3.2MW solar farm will not only be self-consumed at the company’s SMA Solar Factory 3 nearby, it will also be transmitted for use at SMA sites around its headquarters in Niestetal. SMA claims it worked closely with a local utility company, Städtische Werke AG Kassel to develop a solution to distributing electricity across the various sites.

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