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Title: High Energy Yield Distributed Architecture for Large Commercial and Utility-Scale PV Systems

Abstract

Photovoltaic energy has come a long way from its early days when small cells were fabricated in the labs in the early 50s. While it took a long time for PV modules to mature into what we now see in the market and in rooftops across the world, the power electronics has been lagging behind & was always the weakest point in the PV plant, being responsible for the majority of failures & robbing the PV plants of their full potential by losing precious Watts in the process of converting power from DC to AC. Since the early days of PV power, it has been recognized that the modules need to operate at their maximum power point in order to extract as much power as is available from the PV modules at a given time of day and year. Numerous maximum power point devices were developed to do just this. While effective at extracting as much power as they can, soon after there was a realization that in a PV installation where a central inverter is used, many losses occur, hence energy yield losses. This has led to thinking about alternative architectures where the maximum power point tracking (MPPT) ismore » performed much closer to the modules rather than at a central inverter. Several architectures were proposed ranging from a microinverter, microconverter, string inverter, string optimizer, and to a multi-string inverter or optimizer. While these architectures promise to increase the energy yield by 5% to 25% (depending where MPPT is located), & recovering losses due to shading, soiling, mismatch … there were no real studies and implementations in the field to corroborate these numbers. The program that GE Global Research proposed & received funding for is aimed at a type of distributed architectures, namely the dc architectures where only the MPPT function is distributed across the PV plant. Further, the project is concerned with choosing the right architecture for large scale commercial & utility scale plants but not residential installations. Findings from Task 1- Define Requirements & Develop Architecture- showed that for large scale commercial & utility PV plants, locating the MPPT at the string level with a string size of >3kW is the most cost effective solution & that the increase in energy yield of 6% to 8% is more than enough to make up for the increased cost due to additional power electronics. Our study also shows that in addition to an increase in energy yield, having a dc/dc converter at the string level brings additional benefits such as increased array visibility, allowing for increased monitoring and diagnostics; high and constant dc bus voltage which allows for reducing losses further and optimizing the inverter; and ability to detect ground and arc faults. Task 2 focused on designing a suitable dc/dc converter that meets the requirements defined in Task 1: Efficiency, Cost, & Reliability. For this task, we surveyed and simulated all candidate topologies known by the practitioners in the field. We also generated a novel topology, simulated it, & compared it to existing topologies. Our novel topology being a partial power processing converter came out on top due to its simplicity (fewer parts), it high efficiency, its reliability, and its lower cost. In the remaining tasks of the project, we built the hardware, tested it first in the lab, then in the field and once we worked out all the bugs and issues and were confident our system was robust, we installed it on the rooftop and started collecting the data by mid-Q3 2012. We shared our work with the scientific community in the form of conference & Journal papers, hence contributing to the general understanding of this technology area. The methods, techniques, and hardware developed under this project have all been tested in the field over long periods of time, and under many conditions and have been shown to be robust and reliable. The converters built and developed under this program have been in operation in the field since mid-June 2012, and no hardware failures have been recorded. While some software issues have been seen, none have been showstoppers. The cost analysis of the hardware showed that it meets the cost target set in the requirement document developed in the trade-off study. Improving the performance of solar installations for commercial and utility scale plants contributes to reducing their cost of ownership, hence spreading them to a larger section of the society and making them affordable. Our project contributed to the understanding of the distributed architectures, showed that PV plants’ cost of electricity can be reduced through additional power electronics which allows for harvesting more energy from the plant. When the project started in 2009, the cost of PV energy was still high, hence there was a real need to increase the energy yield, hence reduce the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). While costs have come down significantly, the need for increasing the energy yield is still relevant, hence the project results, hardware, and techniques developed are still pertinent today. By taking this project from concept to rooftop demonstration, we showed that the technology is mature enough, robust enough, and has the potential to be used by many more customers, hence benefiting the public in general through the spread of PV energy, which ultimately contributes to reducing our dependency on fossil fuel, improving the environment, and creating more jobs.« less

Authors:
 [1]
  1. GE Global Research, Niskayuna, New York (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
GE Global Research Center, Niskayuna, NY (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (EE-4S)
Contributing Org.:
Sandia National Lab. (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States)
OSTI Identifier:
1319408
Report Number(s):
DoE-GRC-0000572-1
DOE Contract Number:  
EE0000572
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
14 SOLAR ENERGY; Photovoltaics; DC/DC; Converter; MPPT; String Level; Energy Yield; Distributed; Architecture; Solar; Utility Scale; PV; Plants; LCOE; NPV; Cost; Inverter; Reliability; Availability; Topology; mc-Si; CdTe; CIGS; PPA; BOS

Citation Formats

Elasser, Ahmed. High Energy Yield Distributed Architecture for Large Commercial and Utility-Scale PV Systems. United States: N. p., 2013. Web. doi:10.2172/1319408.
Elasser, Ahmed. High Energy Yield Distributed Architecture for Large Commercial and Utility-Scale PV Systems. United States. doi:10.2172/1319408.
Elasser, Ahmed. Thu . "High Energy Yield Distributed Architecture for Large Commercial and Utility-Scale PV Systems". United States. doi:10.2172/1319408. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1319408.
@article{osti_1319408,
title = {High Energy Yield Distributed Architecture for Large Commercial and Utility-Scale PV Systems},
author = {Elasser, Ahmed},
abstractNote = {Photovoltaic energy has come a long way from its early days when small cells were fabricated in the labs in the early 50s. While it took a long time for PV modules to mature into what we now see in the market and in rooftops across the world, the power electronics has been lagging behind & was always the weakest point in the PV plant, being responsible for the majority of failures & robbing the PV plants of their full potential by losing precious Watts in the process of converting power from DC to AC. Since the early days of PV power, it has been recognized that the modules need to operate at their maximum power point in order to extract as much power as is available from the PV modules at a given time of day and year. Numerous maximum power point devices were developed to do just this. While effective at extracting as much power as they can, soon after there was a realization that in a PV installation where a central inverter is used, many losses occur, hence energy yield losses. This has led to thinking about alternative architectures where the maximum power point tracking (MPPT) is performed much closer to the modules rather than at a central inverter. Several architectures were proposed ranging from a microinverter, microconverter, string inverter, string optimizer, and to a multi-string inverter or optimizer. While these architectures promise to increase the energy yield by 5% to 25% (depending where MPPT is located), & recovering losses due to shading, soiling, mismatch … there were no real studies and implementations in the field to corroborate these numbers. The program that GE Global Research proposed & received funding for is aimed at a type of distributed architectures, namely the dc architectures where only the MPPT function is distributed across the PV plant. Further, the project is concerned with choosing the right architecture for large scale commercial & utility scale plants but not residential installations. Findings from Task 1- Define Requirements & Develop Architecture- showed that for large scale commercial & utility PV plants, locating the MPPT at the string level with a string size of >3kW is the most cost effective solution & that the increase in energy yield of 6% to 8% is more than enough to make up for the increased cost due to additional power electronics. Our study also shows that in addition to an increase in energy yield, having a dc/dc converter at the string level brings additional benefits such as increased array visibility, allowing for increased monitoring and diagnostics; high and constant dc bus voltage which allows for reducing losses further and optimizing the inverter; and ability to detect ground and arc faults. Task 2 focused on designing a suitable dc/dc converter that meets the requirements defined in Task 1: Efficiency, Cost, & Reliability. For this task, we surveyed and simulated all candidate topologies known by the practitioners in the field. We also generated a novel topology, simulated it, & compared it to existing topologies. Our novel topology being a partial power processing converter came out on top due to its simplicity (fewer parts), it high efficiency, its reliability, and its lower cost. In the remaining tasks of the project, we built the hardware, tested it first in the lab, then in the field and once we worked out all the bugs and issues and were confident our system was robust, we installed it on the rooftop and started collecting the data by mid-Q3 2012. We shared our work with the scientific community in the form of conference & Journal papers, hence contributing to the general understanding of this technology area. The methods, techniques, and hardware developed under this project have all been tested in the field over long periods of time, and under many conditions and have been shown to be robust and reliable. The converters built and developed under this program have been in operation in the field since mid-June 2012, and no hardware failures have been recorded. While some software issues have been seen, none have been showstoppers. The cost analysis of the hardware showed that it meets the cost target set in the requirement document developed in the trade-off study. Improving the performance of solar installations for commercial and utility scale plants contributes to reducing their cost of ownership, hence spreading them to a larger section of the society and making them affordable. Our project contributed to the understanding of the distributed architectures, showed that PV plants’ cost of electricity can be reduced through additional power electronics which allows for harvesting more energy from the plant. When the project started in 2009, the cost of PV energy was still high, hence there was a real need to increase the energy yield, hence reduce the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). While costs have come down significantly, the need for increasing the energy yield is still relevant, hence the project results, hardware, and techniques developed are still pertinent today. By taking this project from concept to rooftop demonstration, we showed that the technology is mature enough, robust enough, and has the potential to be used by many more customers, hence benefiting the public in general through the spread of PV energy, which ultimately contributes to reducing our dependency on fossil fuel, improving the environment, and creating more jobs.},
doi = {10.2172/1319408},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2013},
month = {2}
}