Project Name: Multiport Autonomous Reconfigurable Solar power plant (MARS)
Funding Opportunity: Advanced Power Electronics Designs for Solar Applications
SETO Subprogram: Systems Integration
Location: Oak Ridge, TN
SETO Award Amount: $2.5 million
Awardee Cost Share: $625,000

This project team will develop an integrated system of modular power electronics devices that connect utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants and energy storage systems with the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) and alternating current (AC) distribution and transmission grid. The integrated system, called a multiport autonomous reconfigurable solar power plant (MARS), reduces energy losses and costs compared with separate system segments. Advanced controls will enable MARS to continue operation during grid disturbances, and a cybersecurity system will identify intrusions.


MARS will use high-voltage, wide-bandgap devices to build a utility-scale PV system with storage that can directly connect to HVDC substations without step-up transformers. The bandgap is a measure of energy that signifies the distance between an electron’s starting point and the point it has to move to in order to conduct electricity. Advanced controls will improve grid stability while connecting to multiple grids with multiple sources, like PV and energy storage, and continue delivering power during grid disturbances. MARS will also include advanced data-driven cyber-intrusion detection methods to reduce the chance of disruptions. The project team will build a MARS module and the control system, then demonstrate MARS using a power electronics hardware-in-the-loop concept, in which one of the modules will be evaluated in real hardware, and the rest of the MARS electrical circuit will be simulated in real time.


A modular integrated system like MARS with a combined rating exceeding 100 megawatts can reduce costs and losses associated with separate system segments. The project has the potential to lower the levelized cost of utility-scale solar plants near HVDC lines by 50%. MARS also offers direct-current support, advanced solar and energy storage support, and advanced grid services. This project will lead to a new method of integrating PV and storage, with new module hardware and advanced controls in PV-plus-storage systems, and a mechanism to test modular solutions connected to transmission systems.