Power electronic devices, such as photovoltaic inverters and battery chargers or dischargers, are used to convert electricity from one form to another. Power electronics are enabling technologies for solar grid integration and grid modernization, as 80% of electricity could flow through power electronics by 2030. The Systems Integration subprogram is interested in improving inverters, converters, and rectifiers at various voltage and power ratings that support utility-scale, commercial, industrial, and residential photovoltaic systems.
Power Electronics Challenges and Opportunities
Solar power electronics innovations are driven by the need for lowering cost and improving efficiency and service life. In addition, these devices need capabilities to improve grid resilience, reliability, and security via advanced control and system integration. Recent progress in wide-band-gap device technologies and advanced manufacturing and packaging techniques offers new opportunities for innovative designs that can achieve higher efficiency, higher power density, and improved equipment reliability. Other design opportunities include coordinated voltage and power flow control, system operation during grid disturbance, operation in microgrids, synthetic inertia for grid support, and coordination with other distributed energy resource equipment.
SETO funds research and development projects that aim to reduce power electronics hardware costs, improve equipment efficiency and reliability, develop and validate advanced control functionalities through hardware-in-the-loop and field tests, and develop reliability test standards.
Several national lab projects in the SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (SuNLaMP) funding program are advancing the development and integration of power electronics into solar systems and the grid. Projects include:
- Additively Manufactured Photovoltaic Inverter (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
- Stabilizing the Power System in 2035 and Beyond: Evolving from Grid-Following to Grid-Forming Distributed Inverter Controllers (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
- Combined PV/Battery Grid Integration with High Frequency Magnetics Enabled Power Electronics (National Energy Technology Laboratory)
In addition, new awards from the Advanced Power Electronics Design for Solar Applications funding program will comprehensively address the cost reduction, reliability, and control challenges for solar grid integration.