The US Department of Energy has awarded $3 million to the University of Texas in Austin for research on innovative solutions to the solar energy storage problem. As of now two separate systems for storage and generation of power are required, which experts from UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering plan to change. Such a solution would reduce costs by about 50 percent.
Researchers at UT are going to develop the next generation of utility-scale photovoltaic inverters, also referred to as modular, multifunction, multiport and medium-voltage (M4) utility-scale silicon carbide solar inverters. By converting the direct current output of solar panels to medium-voltage alternating current, they eliminate the need for bulky and expensive low-frequency transformers. The M4 Inverter will also make use of new silicon carbide power electronics switches and it will be based on the modular building block concept, which will reduce manufacturing costs and prove reliable operation through a power backup.
“Our solution to solar energy storage not only reduces capital costs, but it also reduces the operation cost through its multifunctional capabilities,” said electrical and computer engineering professor Alex Huang. “These functionalities will ensure the power grids of tomorrow can host a higher percentage of solar energy. By greatly reducing the impact of the intermittence of solar energy on the grid and providing grid-governing support, the M4 Inverter provides the same resilience as any fossil-fuel-powered grid.”
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