Inverters go big and go smart at Intersolar Europe


Many of the world’s leading inverter suppliers took the opportunity on day one of the Intersolar Europe exhibition in Munich, Germany, to showcase their new smart solutions to huge crowds.

The booths of ABB, SolarEdge and Ingeteam thrummed with activity on the opening morning of the show as all three companies unveiled solutions designed to meet the maturing market needs of Europe and beyond.

For Swiss power technology firm ABB, it was the unleashing of its 1,500 VDC central inverter, the PVS980, that seized the first fervor of excitement. Boasting long lifetimes, a more compact design providing better power density, and power increases of up to 40%, the ABB central inverter is being touted as a utility-scale solution in new and emerging markets.

Leonardo Botti, ABB’s global marketing manager for the PG solar division, said that while Europe’s utilty-scale market has contracted, the PVS980 may have restricted opportunities in the continent. However, the product was developed with the mega solar plants of China, Asia, MENA and North America in mind.

“In the utility space there is a huge pressure on the costs of the installation, so by enlarging the length of the string, going up to 1500 volts we had the capabilities to consistently reduce the cost of the installation,” he told pv magazine. “Thanks to this technology there will be a saving of between 3-5% on the global cost of an installation. This central inverter is enabling this kind of essential saving. If you think about the very high pressure on utility scale projects that are already financially viable, it is an important step.”

Robert Itschner, business unit manager, power conversion, added that the threat posed at scale by string inverters meant that any new central inverter design would have to boast equally in-depth levels of monitoring capabilities – something that the PVS980 boasts, he said.

“Connectivity goes way beyond the solar portfolio in ABB,” said Itschner. “We are striving very hard because if nothing is conneceted to the cloud or internet then you fall behind. Lots of infrastructure is being developed with this in mind, and any ABB product that comes to the market must be prepared for this digital world, and our central inverter is no different. We have communication connectivity package on the product, with standard safety analysis software, and we aim to offer more connectivity to the cloud and better service to our end users.”

Itschner said that there has already been “an enormous pull from the market” for the central inverter. “Not all markets are engaged with 1500 volts yet, but with products like this, more and more customers will think about it more seriously.”

Spain’s Ingeteam also used the occasion to launch its new 1,500 VDC central inverter, which Carlos Lezana, Ingeteam’s marketing department representative, said will enter into full production in two months. “The strengths of this product lie in the C&I markets of Europe and beyond,” he said. “1,500 volts is what the market is demanding right now.”

Another Spanish company, GPTech, proved to be another proponent of the move to the 1,500 volt market, unveiling its new central inverter at the show. TMEIC of Japan also introduced its new central inverter – the PVL-L1000E – which the company claims is the world’s smallest 1,000 kW inverter.

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SolarEdge goes smart

Amid the hubbub of the SolarEdge booth – which was showcasing the Israeli firm’s impressive suite of new power products, including the HD-Wave – was a quiet corner for visitors to get away… not quite literally, but the 360 degree virtual reality experience of a SolarEdge smart home was as close as could be to true escapism.

The VR told the story of SolarEdge’s new Smart Energy Management portfolio, which essentially delivers an inverter-controlled complete energy management solution to the home, and proved another step along SolarEdge’s evolution to becoming a complete energy provider.

“One way to increase self-consumption is with our new load management devices,” Lior Handelsman told pv magazine. Load switching devices and immersion heater controls designed to direct excess PV energy to appliances during the day in order to shift energy consumption to match PV generation.

“The interface for the homeowner is simple. If you install our hot water unit, you can program the inverter to provide hot water at 6pm every day. So you tell the inverter that hot water requires two hours of full power operation from the solar system on the roof. The inverter will try to route excess solar energy to the hot water heater throughout the day.

“If it manages this, then – free hot water. If not, if it’s cloudy and the sun does not shine, then two hours before 6pm it will take energy instead from the grid. Either way, you will have hot water. The inverter will optimize, however, that the costs for the customer will be the minimum.”

This was just one example of the efficacy of the SolarEdge system, and more scenarios are promised as the show continues.

pv magazine will be reporting live and direct from Intersolar Europe throughout the week, so check back regularly for more stories and updates.

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