U.S. Department of Energy

Power Electronics and Balance of System Hardware Technologies

DOE is targeting solar technology improvements related to power electronics and balance of system (BOS) hardware technologies to reduce the installed cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity and enable high penetrations of solar energy on the power grid.

Power Electronics

Improving power electronics, particularly inverters, will help DOE achieve the SunShot goal to reduce the cost of installed solar systems.

Inverters convert the direct current (DC) electricity from PV modules, strings, or arrays into the alternating current (AC) electricity that is fed into the grid. In doing so, inverters must:

  • Set current and voltage to maximize power output
  • Match the converted AC to the utility's electrical network
  • Have safeguards that protect utility personnel and the electrical network from harm during repairs.

In addition to these basic functions, inverters can provide a range of services that increase the value of solar electricity to the utility network. Information on this advanced functionality for PV power electronics is available on the Power Electronics page at the High Penetration Solar Portal.

Balance of System Hardware

BOS hardware includes all components used in solar power installation other than the module and power electronics, and represents a major opportunity to achieve significant cost reductions. The BOS typically consists of structures for mounting the PV arrays or modules, wires, disconnects, fuses, and combiner boxes.

Within the SunShot Systems Integration activities, power electronics and BOS hardware research and development (R&D) is being funded through DOE national laboratories and through competitive awards.

National Laboratory R&D

Sandia National Laboratories, with funding from DOE, is performing advanced inverter R&D.

Approach

DOE's SunShot Initiative is focused on cost reduction, which can be enabled by improving inverter performance, which improves the value provided to the electrical power system. Advanced functionality is being incorporated into inverters to help mitigate potential impacts of high PV deployment on the grid and to improve the performance and efficiency of the electrical power system.

Innovation

Sandia's research is focused on:

  • Coordinating efforts to update grid compatibility and interoperability standards for PV inverters to address advanced inverter capabilities
  • Developing test procedures to experimentally determine the effectiveness of advanced inverter functions and to validate the interoperability of advanced inverters with the electrical power system
  • Developing models to predict the efficiency and performance of inverters employing advanced functions
  • Identifying innovative approaches to implement voltage and frequency ride-through capabilities to enhance the reliability of the electrical power system.

These research efforts will enable high penetrations of utility-connected renewable energy systems by improving performance, enhancing reliability, and increasing the value of renewable energy systems.

Competitive Awards

The following competitive solicitations represent recent and ongoing power electronics and BOS R&D efforts:

Learn about other DOE competitive awards for systems integration research that are in progress.