General Electric’s (GE) research arm received $ 4.2 million (£ 3.3 million) to develop and deploy advanced inverter control technologies that can support higher amounts of solar energy while improving grid stability.
Solar and wind inverters connected to the grid depend on the existing voltage and frequency levels in order to deliver electricity that differs from conventional generators such as gas and steam turbines, which specify or form the voltage and frequency levels at which the grid operates becomes.
GE Research will use the US Department of Energy’s funds to develop “grid-forming” controls that allow solar and wind inverters, like traditional generators, to create voltage and frequency levels, creating the possibility of greater and more resilient integration of these resources into the grid.
According to GE, while the control technology for grid-forming inverters is new, the big challenge is that many distributed grid-forming inverter resources can work together like traditional generators without causing stability issues.
The inverter enhancements will support the increasingly distributed, renewable grid in the United States. According to the Energy Information Administration, electricity generation from renewable sources doubled from 382 million MWh in 2008 to 742 million MWh in 2018, with solar energy increasing nearly 50 times over the same period.
Maozhong Gong, Senior Engineer at Electric Power Technologies at GE Research, said, “When it comes to solar and other renewable resources, all roads go through the inverter. As the national grid receives more power from the sun and wind, advanced inverters are required to maintain reliability.
“As part of this project, we will develop and test on-site advanced lattice-forming controls that allow many distributed resources to deliver reliable and resilient energy, as is the case with conventional generators. We will test and validate these new technologies using GE Renewable Energy’s commercial PV LV5 inverter platform. The aim is to provide a solution that can be used commercially and implemented to support the country’s growing solar power portfolio. “