Valere Power Awarded Federal Grant for Management System to Make Solar Power More Effective

May 16, 2007 by Jeff Shepard

Valere Power announced that it has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to develop a management system that will, according to the company, dramatically improve the efficiency of solar power systems for better power extraction. The company will use the grant funds to do basic research on the management system. The SBIR grant program was begun in 1982 to encourage small businesses to pursue research and development projects. SBIR grants fund the critical startup and development stages of R&D, and encourage the commercialization of the technology, product or service. Valere, a provider of dc power systems for telecommunications applications, is tackling the system management of photovoltaic systems, applying expertise the company has gained from its telecommunications systems.

"Managing solar power implementations presents some unique challenges," said Al Cioffi, Vice President of Business Development for Valere Power. "But we’ve been able to draw on many of the techniques and technologies that have been applied to telecommunications power systems to propose a solution that can help increase the use of solar power to feed the world’s increasing need for electricity."

System management provides the operator of a photovoltaic system with detailed environmental and performance information for each system component (panels, inverters, environmental sensors and protection devices). The photovoltaic panel, which comprises most of the system, is particularly important because today’s management systems provide little information on efficiency and operational status. More information in these areas can allow system tuning for increased power extraction. Additionally, today’s management systems are not integrated across the entire photovoltaic system and can cost many thousands of dollars per array.

In its grant application, Valere laid out an integrated solution that combines low cost sensors in each solar power system component with an overall system controller that leverages computing power built into the power inverter. Depending on the installation, the system can be tied together using wireless or powerline networking technology. The system will collect and process data to give solar power operators more operational information including, system state of health, photovoltaic panel conversion efficiency, performance correlation with the environment (weather, time of day, shading) and long-term performance trends. In addition, the management system would alert operators to problems with the system.