SMA equips South African hybrid plant with PV

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German PV equipment manufacturer SMA Solar Technology (SMA) has equipped a solar-diesel hybrid plant in Thabazimbi, South Africa, with PV modules and inverters.

The plant, which is owned by Johannesburg-based PV system integrator Solea Renewables and German EPC firm Solea, represents South Africa’s first off-grid MW-scale solar-diesel hybrid power plant. It is located in a remote mining region in Limpopo Province.

As part of SMA’s contribution to the project, the company delivered 4,200 PV modules and 63 Sunny Tripower 17000 TL inverters providing the plant with a PV capacity of 1MW.

“Economically, it makes a lot of sense for industrial large-scale consumers in off-grid but sunny regions to complement traditional diesel generators with solar energy,” says SMA Chief Technology Officer Roland Grebe.

“The high level of solar irradiation means that the PV arrays can be amortised very quickly. Therefore, our solutions are designed to manage energy supply intelligently and, in turn, minimise fuel costs and CO2 emissions incurred. The installation in Thabazimbi, South Africa, is our flagship project in the industrial sector. On a worldwide scale we are expecting a potential of several gigawatts with solar diesel hybrid systems.”  

The intelligent hybrid solar system management solution also includes a SMA Fuel Save Controller which creates an interface between the PV array and diesel generator.

Explaining the function of the SMA Fuel Save Controller, Ivar Ekker, Executive Vice President at SMA Off-Grid Solutions Industrial said: “The degree of PV penetration only reaches a mere 20% in systems lacking intelligent management. Anything above that endangers stability of the power distribution grid. With the SMA Fuel Save Controller a degree of PV penetration of up to 60% is attainable, while grid stability is guaranteed. The additional use of battery storages to intermediately store excess solar energy would be able to increase this margin even more if necessary. We are currently working on such a solution.”  

The PV installation was completed in November and generates around 1.8GWh of solar power on a yearly basis.

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