Renewable Energy Innovations Define 2023
A look back at the power products, innovations, and technologies impacting renewable energy generation, distribution, and storage.
Faced with growing demand for power generation solutions that are not reliant on carbon-based fuels, along with incentives made available through public policies like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), renewable energy applications continued to be an area of focus for power system designers, suppliers, and device manufacturers over the past year.
Heat battery for industrial energy storage. Image used courtesy of Rondo Energy
Here’s a look back at a few of the power products, technologies, innovations, and other developments impacting renewable energy production, distribution, and storage in 2023.
High-Voltage Power Devices for Renewables
With any grid-scale power generation and distribution system, high-voltage power management and conversion systems such as inverters, rectifiers, converters, and supplies play a key role in renewable power systems like wind and solar energy. In 2023, manufacturers of power system devices and components continued to be active with the release and promotion of wide bandgap and other high-voltage devices for renewable power management applications.
Refreshing an older and cost-competitive power device technology, Nexperia released its first-ever 600 V insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) designed for applications that include power inverters, uninterruptible power supplies, and solar arrays.
Onsemi announced a partnership with Chinese company Sineng Electric to incorporate their silicon carbide (SiC) EliteSiC MOSFET and IGBT power modules into Sineng’s emerging solar inverter and energy storage solutions. Meanwhile, Navitas Semiconductor announced a similar collaboration with Katek Group to use their GeneSiC power devices in Katek’s residential solar inverters.
Navitas GeneSiC power switches selected for Steca solar inverters. Image used courtesy of Navitas
According to Diodes Incorporated, the company’s new 1200 V SiC MOSFET is the first ever released in a TO247-4 package and brings new levels of power density to high-voltage power conversion applications like energy storage systems and solar inverters.
To accurately measure the current levels in large-scale energy storage banks and renewable energy generation infrastructure, Riedon released their digital current sensor system-in-package with an integrated 16-bit MCU capable of measuring currents up to 1000 A.
Hydrogen Fuel and the Hydrogen Fuel Cycle
As a companion to renewable power generation, hydrogen holds much potential as a portable, carbon-free alternative to batteries in EVs, energy storage, and other e-mobility applications.
Hydrogen has a high energy density that makes it ideal as a portable fuel and store of energy. For e-mobility, energy storage, and other electric applications, fuel cells produce electricity from the stored energy in hydrogen, with water as the only resulting waste product. And when hydrogen fuels are produced from the electrolysis of water using electricity sourced from renewables, the complete hydrogen energy cycle is considered “green” or carbon-free.
The hydrogen fuel cycle was an area of active global investment in 2023.
The joint venture between Daimler Truck, NextEra Energy, and BlackRock Renewable Power announced Greenlane as the name of their collaborative project aimed at designing and developing a network of commercial vehicle public charging and hydrogen refueling stations across the U.S.
As part of BIL, the U.S. Department of Energy announced they will direct the first $750 million of the $1.5 billion allocated for clean hydrogen research.
On the international front, U.K. startup GeoPura received £36 million in funding from investors to increase the pace of manufacturing and deployment of their Hydrogen Power Units (HPU) across the U.K., along with the increased production of green hydrogen fuels.
India, a significant consumer of carbon-based energy, announced $2.3 billion in new investments targeted to expand its domestic green hydrogen production.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Image used courtesy of EE Power
NEOM Green Hydrogen Company (NGHC), a joint venture between ACWA Power, Air Products, and the NEOM region of Saudi Arabia, announced $8.4 billion in funding for a green hydrogen and ammonia production facility projected to be the largest in the world. The investment is part of a larger effort by the Saudi government to transition and diversify its energy-based economy.
Reliable energy storage, particularly long-duration storage of more than six hours, is essential to renewable power production. Renewables, like wind and solar, are intermittent, so to fully leverage their power production capabilities, energy storage is needed to help match power generation with power demands.
Ground-mounted solar panel array. Image used courtesy of Sineng Electric
Energy storage technologies, including battery, mechanical, heat, and so on, continued to be a major focus for investment and development in 2023.
Flow batteries can offer longer duration and more cost-effective energy storage than lithium-ion batteries. XL Batteries closed $10 million in seed funding for a low-cost and scalable flow battery solution that uses organic materials and salt water as the storage medium.
Honeywell released the Ionic battery energy storage system (BESS), a modular system that scales to the energy storage needs of specific applications. Initially targeted for use with lithium-ion batteries, the platform is designed to accommodate other battery chemistries as well, including flow battery technologies.
Rondo Energy received $60 million in funding for their heat battery storage solution that uses everyday brick materials to store renewable energy as heat, with only minor energy losses (less than 1% per day).
Power Edison announced the TerraCharge platform, a trailer-mobile BESS for utility-grade applications. TerraCharge is a modular solution designed for flexibility and to meet utility operators' dynamic power storage needs.
Renewable Power Generation, Management, and Conservation
Power generated from wind turbines or solar arrays must be managed and conditioned to be delivered to the grid, stored for future use, or used locally to power loads. Renewable power generation and management solutions featured prominently in 2023.
The SolarEdge 330 kW smart inverter platform from SolarEdge is a ground-mounted solar inverter solution that uses power point tracking to maximize power production and mitigate shading effects and uneven terrain in solar array deployments. The company also announced an AI-based software platform that helps manage solar-powered charging stations for commercial and industrial EVs.
Mean Well released the ERG-5000 series of four-channel, 5 kW power inverters that recycle energy back to the grid during battery system testing and development.
Commercial EV fleet charging via busway. Image used courtesy of Eaton
In line with its commitment to meet the growing demand for the equipment needed to support global electrification, Eaton announced it would invest more than $500 million in new manufacturing for equipment and systems related to grid modernization.
AutoGrid, a subsidiary of Schneider Electric, announced the release of AutoGrid Flex EV, a solution that assists utility operators with implementing vehicle-to-grid (V2G) programs for their customers. V2G systems allow electric vehicle owners to “sell” the energy stored in vehicle batteries back to the grid to help load balancing and meet peak demands.