DOE Announces $8.5 Million to Advance Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems

September 09, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that Sandia National Laboratories is investing $8.5 million for four projects that have reached Stage III of the Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems (SEGIS) program. These investments will be matched more than one-to-one by the SEGIS contractors to support more than $20 million in total projects. The selections are part of the Department’s ongoing work to improve the Nation’s electrical grid reliability as solar energy technologies reach cost-competitiveness with conventional sources of electricity and increasing amounts of photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity flow into the Nation’s electrical grid.

Initiated in 2008, the SEGIS program is a partnership that includes DOE, Sandia National Laboratories, industry, utilities and universities. Under the program, projects are emphasizing complete system development for solar technologies, for instance, how to move designs of intelligent system controls towards commercialization and how best to integrate expanded solar resources onto the grid while maintaining or improving power quality and reliability. The awards are follow-on selections from the first two stages of the SEGIS program. Projects were selected based on the highest likelihood of commercialization of reliable products that will best enable and accelerate the integration of solar PV technologies into an intelligent electrical grid.

The SEGIS Stage III selections are as follows:

The Florida Solar Energy Center of the University of Central Florida is partnering with Satcon Technology Corp., SENTECH, Inc., SunEdison, Cooper Power Systems EAS, Northern Plains Power Technologies and Lakeland Electric Utilities. This Stage III project focuses on the implementation of a larger "shared" inverter serving multiple residential or commercial PV systems. The demonstration will feature a suite of new functionalities such as "Smart Grid" power controls, continued operation in the events of voltage and frequency disturbances, and improved safety of PV systems. These new functionalities will enable higher penetrations of PV into the grid of the future

Petra Solar is partnering with the University of Central Florida, Public Service Electric & Gas, PEPCO Holdings and BP Solar. This project addresses utility-grid interactivity, system reliability, and safety through low cost, easy-to-install, modular inverters. The Stage III work expands the micro-inverter system concept to higher voltage operations to reduce costs and expand utility-friendly functionalities.

Princeton Power is partnering with First Energy Corp., Center for Power Electronics Systems, International Battery, Inc., Tectonic Corp., and Process Automation Corp.. This project will address finishing details to complete a design for a 100kW "Demand Response Inverter" based on Princeton’s unique circuit designs and the use of new state-of-the-art components. Demonstration installations with utility collaborations are planned during Stage III and will be announced once details are available.

PV Powered is partnering with Portland General Electric, Northern Plains Power Technologies, and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. This project focuses on several key developments in Stage III, including next-generation controls and advanced communications technologies that enable distributed PV systems to communicate with power utilities. These innovations will allow utilities to manage networks of distributed power sources, reduce PV systems costs, and remove barriers to high levels of PV grid penetration. Stage III demonstration installations are being planned and will be announced when details are available.