New products, innovations and projects: The smarter E Europe announces 2024 award winners

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ArcelorMitta, NexWafe and SMA Solar are the winners of the photovoltaics category. Image: Solar Promotion GmbH

Intersolar Europe is one of the most influential events in the solar sector, offering a unique spotlight for innovation and development in the solar industry.

Prior to the event, the smarter E Europe, Europe’s alliance of exhibitions for the energy industry, presented the smarter E Award in five categories, including photovoltaics, energy storage, e-mobility, smart integrated energy, and outstanding projects.

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The smarter E Europe said the prize recognises companies with innovative solutions and projects that are “essential for a renewable 24/7 energy supply – today and in the future”. Each category has three winners.

Winners of the photovoltaics category

In the photovoltaics category, French steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal won the award through Helioroof, a product for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) on the roof.

Applicable to new roofs and existing roofs for retrofitting, the isolated steel roof modules were equipped with monocrystalline tunnel oxide passivated contact (TOPCon) cells and a protective plastic film. Prefabricated in variable lengths between two and 12 metres, the module’s power production could reach 2.17kWp.

ArcelorMittal added that the absence of glass and mounting frames makes them up to 50% lighter and 40% faster to install than conventional solar PV systems.

German wafer producer NexWafe’s EpiNex wafers also won the award. EpiNex wafers were manufactured using an inline method that involves the porosification of seed wafers and large area silicon epitaxy. The silicon layers were pulled up from a seed wafer until they reach the desired thickness, as a direct drop-in replacement for existing heterojunction, TOPCon and interdigitated back contact (IBC) wafers.

NexWafe said the wafers could be as thin as 50 microns, less than half the thickness of conventionally manufactured wafers, and can reduce the silicon loss by 90%, energy consumption by 60% and production costs by 50%, respectively. Additionally, With a gas-to-wafer technology that eliminates the need for polysilicon production, ingot pulling and wafer sawing, the wafer can reduce kerf loss.

Inverter supplier SMA Solar Technology’s new Sunny Central FLEX platform solution for solar PV, battery energy storage and hydrogen electrolysers also won an award in the photovoltaics category. The modular and flexible system makes it possible to make grid connections for solar PV plants, battery energy storage, fuel cells and electrolysers. The platform solution’s grid-forming capabilities support both current and future energy demands, while a claimed ease of integration with DC-DC converters enables grid-forming for solar-plus-storage hybrid systems.

Moreover, the modular concept comes fully integrated with AC-DC and DC-DC converters, which can be combined to meet various use cases such as solar PV, DC-coupled storage, AC-coupled storage, or power-to-gas. The central inverters use silicon carbide to boost the DC-AC and DC-DC converters.

SMA Solar said the platform has been engineered to enhance the integration of renewable energy into the grid, with the capability to precisely control plant behaviour at the point of interconnection.

Solar project in the Outstanding Projects category

In Germany, German renewables developer MaxSolar’s 125MWp project in Bundorf, Bavaria, was described as “a prime example of energy transition in action”.

The project was a part of a citizen participation scheme and a third of it belonged to a local energy community. The solar park, capable of supplying renewables power to 37,500 households, boasts 12 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and a renewable district heating network for local residential buildings and municipal buildings.

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