GE Researchers Developing Advanced PV Inverter Technology to Support More Reliable, Resilient Solar Grid Integration

  • Developing new grid-forming inverter controls to handle higher amounts of solar power while improving grid stability 
  • Plans to deploy and test new controls with GE Renewable Energy’s commercial PV LV5 inverter platform
  • Inverter improvements will support nation’s increasingly distributed, renewable-intensive grid network

PVTIME - GE Research, the central technology development arm for the
General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), has been awarded $4.2 million in
funding from the U.S.
Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office
(SETO) to help
develop and deploy advanced grid-forming photovoltaic (PV) inverter control
technologies that can reliably support higher amounts of solar power on the
grid. This work keeps pace with the nation’s changing electric grid
system, which is getting more energy from distributed and renewable sources.

Today, wind and solar inverters connected to the grid
depend upon existing voltage and frequency levels to deliver power. This is
different from traditional generators, like gas and steam turbines, which
dictate, or form, the voltage and frequency levels at which the grid operates.

The development of “grid-forming” controls will allow wind
and solar inverters to form voltage and frequency levels like traditional
generators, creating an opportunity for greater and more resilient integration
of these resources into the grid.

“When it comes to solar and other renewable resources, all
roads lead through the inverter,” said Maozhong Gong,
Senior Engineer, Electric
Power Technologies
, GE Research. “As the nation’s grid sees more
electricity from the sun and wind, it will require advanced inverters to
maintain reliability.”

Gong added, “As part of this project, we will develop and
field-test advanced grid-forming controls that enable many distributed
resources to deliver reliable and resilient power like traditional generators
do. We will test and validate these new technologies utilizing GE Renewable
Energy’s commercial PV LV5 inverter platform. The goal is to have a solution
ready to commercially deploy and implement to support the nation’s increasing
solar power portfolio.”

Gong explained that while grid-forming inverter control
technology is not new, the big challenge is enabling so many distributed
grid-forming inverter resources to act together like traditional generators
without causing stability issues. The team will address this with a holistic
solution that includes advanced grid-forming controls, system modeling and analysis,
and extensive tests and validation.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Energy
Information Administration, U.S. renewable electricity generation doubled from
382 million megawatt-hours (MWh) in 2008 to 742 million MWh in 2018. Solar
generation has increased nearly 50 times over that same period, from 2 million
MWh to 96 million MWh. 

This year, the EIA says solar
and wind will account for 76% of all planned capacity additions. This growth is
giving rise to inverter-dominated grids that will require more advanced
technologies to ensure grid stability.

GE Research was selected as a part of the Solar
Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 funding program
. For its
project, Gong will lead a multi-disciplinary team of electric power and
electrical controls experts to develop advanced control technologies for PV
inverters that can support increasing solar power loads on the grid. The team
will develop controls for individual and clusters of grid-forming PV inverters
to improve grid stability under various conditions and field-test them in GE’s
commercial PV inverter.

As part of its $4.2 million cooperative award from SETO, GE
and its partners will contribute a cost share of $1.4 million, bringing the
total funding for the project to $5.6 million.

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