Next-Generation Distributed Power Management for Photovoltaic Systems

July 29, 2011 - 12:00pm

In recent years, the balance of systems (BOS) side of photovoltaic (PV) energy has become a major focus in the effort to drive solar energy towards grid parity. The power management architecture has expanded to include a range of distributed solutions, including microinverters and ‘micro’ DC-DC converters to solve problems with mismatch (shading), expand networking and control, and solve critical BOS issues such as fire safety. This talk will introduce traditional and distributed approaches for PV systems, and will propose a next-generation architecture based on a new class of distributed power converters. In line with recent DOE and ARPA-E FOA targets, the proposed approach integrates into the PV module and balances power flow at the sub-module level. The solution can achieve effective conversion efficiency over 99% for a wide range of mismatch scenarios, and insertion loss below 0.1%. By eliminating power magnetic components, the converter achieves a vertical footprint less than 6mm – simplifying integration into the PV junction box. The talk will close with a discussion of research opportunities in the academic space that build on this work. Of particular interest are other distributed energy systems such as battery banks and thermoelectric devices. Also a project in embedded sensing for the utility grid will be discussed.

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