By Prof. Johan Driesen, Department of Electrical Engineering, K.U. Leuven
Electricity has been around for a long time and no doubt will be for the foreseeable future, but it is quickly changing its nature. Owing to evolutions in power electronics, sustainable electricity generation and consumption came to the fore and now it is nigh on impossible for photovoltaics to operate without this technology. This holds true for efficient consumption such as plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles or compact efficient lighting. Power electronics need to be taken into account in relation to grids, for example in novel voltage-source HVDC connections. Photovoltaic energy conversion requires power electronics in order to adapt the floating DC-output to a fixed DC-level and typically further to a grid-compatible AC electricity. These converter (mainly inverter) technologies have evolved considerably over the past few years, in much the same way as has PV cell technology, but in a much less apparent fashion. It is, however, expected and required that the technologies will evolve even further to meet the demands of the future market and the electricity grid to which they will be connected. This article intends to give an overview of the challenges ahead for power electronics in photovoltaic energy conversion.