PROJECT PROFILE: Additively Manufactured Photovoltaic Inverter (SuNLaMP)

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Funding Program: SuNLaMP
SunShot Subprogram: Systems Integration
Location: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $4,478,288
Awardee Cost Share: $60,000

Integrating hundreds of gigawatts of photovoltaic (PV) solar power onto our country’s electric grid requires transformative power conversion system designs that find a balance between performance, reliability, functionality and cost. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will lead this project to develop a unique PV inverter design that combines the latest wide bandgap high-voltage Silicon Carbide (SiC) semiconductor devices with new technologies, such as additive manufacturing and multi-objective magnetic design optimization. By developing an additively manufactured PV inverter (AMPVI), NREL researchers aim to significantly reduce the cost of PV power electronics.

Approach

This project will develop the world’s first SiC power block for PV that uses 3-D printed parts, which includes a unique multi-objective design optimization technology for SiC-based PV inverter magnetics. This holistic approach to the PV inverter design also uses new power blocks, controller boards, and magnetics along with optimized thermal design to achieve high efficiency and power density.

Innovation

The AMPVI concept not only provides superior technical capabilities in terms of energy conversion, but also mitigates market barriers for SiC-based PV inverters. It is well known that these inverters can provide better performance, yet they have not been adopted by the industry due to cost concerns. This project will reduce PV inverter cost by utilizing economies of scale and developing advanced components that are market-ready. Additional benefits for this design include better utilization of PV power due to higher DC voltage, lower operations and maintenance costs, better system efficiency, longer system lifetime, and advanced grid support functionalities for easier grid integration. All of these advantages will lead to a significant reduction of levelized cost of energy for PV systems.