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Solar

Testing and Validating a Novel Solar Power Inverter for Micro and Macro Scales

Company Name: Renewable Power Conversion, Inc.
Program Office: Solar
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
Website: www.rpcincorporated.com
Email: rick.west@rpcincorporated.com
Award Amount ($): $275,000
Program Office: Solar
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Sandia National Laboratories

CRITICAL NEED

Inverters allow direct-current energy from solar power to be used in homes and businesses, which typically utilize alternating current. Renewable Power Conversion (RPC) is developing a modular inverter designed for solar photovoltaic system applications that range from 20kW to 20 MW. Inverters affect the overall efficiency and cost of solar power systems, and continued improvements will allow solar power to become increasingly cost-competitive with other energy sources.

To this end, the company wants to address emerging grid support requirements and plan for corresponding certification tests for its inverter, which it believes could become widely used because of its technological advantages and lower costs. This project will utilize Sandia National Laboratories' experts and facilities to subject the technology to third-party testing and validation, which will help RPC position the inverter as a reliable and cost-effective product in the marketplace.


PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES

RPC has developed its solar inverter technology with support from the Department of Energy's SunShot Incubator Program. It's Macro-Micro inverter has achieved many firsts and has broken technological records for inverters, including recording the highest direct-current input voltage, the highest single-conversion grid-tie voltage, the highest power density per unit volume, the highest power density per pound, and the longest calculated maintenance-free lifetime. Further testing and validation — particularly with regard to thermal performance, maximum power point tracking precision and compatibility with emerging grid requirements — could allow RPC to scale up and market the inverter to a wide variety of customers.


POTENTIAL IMPACT

Economy:
The subsidized cost of solar power has reached parity with the grid in many parts of the country and increasing numbers of homes and businesses defray and even eliminate electricity costs with solar energy. Further reducing solar energy costs will make solar power competitive with other energy sources, including fossil energy and other renewables. Solar manufacturing, installation and maintenance already employ more than 200,000 Americans, and could employ many more in the future.

Environment:
Solar energy does not pollute. Displacing fossil fuel sources with utility-scale and rooftop solar reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

Security:
Solar energy can provide a source of independent and back-up energy for critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and cooling centers. The military is also investing in solar energy to reduce domestic operational costs and increase resiliency in the event of grid disruptions.


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