Details on new utility-scale optimizer, central inverter solution from Alencon Systems

Solar Power International is the ultimate place to see the latest and most interesting new products and services driving the solar industry forward. If you head to the show this year (Las Vegas, Sept. 12 -15), swing by the Alencon Systems LLC booth (#3023) for the unveiling pf the latest generation of its PV harvesting and central inverter solutions.


A sneak peek of what Alencon is offering.

Major highlights of Alencon Systems’ PV optimizer and central inverter solution include the recently developed third generation String Power Optimizers and Transmitters (SPOTs), the company’s DC-DC optimizers that are capable of stepping up the voltage harvested from PV arrays to any DC voltage upward of 2,500 volts while performing maximum power point tracking (MPPT) on up to four strings of solar panels at once.

Additionally, Alencon will be demonstrating its patented PV-IoT solution, which provides granular monitoring of the performance of a utility scale PV installation. At the heart of Alencon Systems’ solution is its Grid Inverter Package (GrIP) central inverter — a central inverter that scales up quickly to the multi-MW level in 2.5-MW increments.

“Alencon’s third generation SPOT will set a new standard in energy harvesting for utility scale PV plants,” says Alencon Systems’ Vice President of Engineering, Ulrich Schwabe. “Using the SPOT in a utility-scale PV system provides operators the best of both worlds of either central or string inverters by performing MPPT at the string level while delivering a lower overall balance of system cost.

“Alencon’s DC to DC optimizer can be used in conjunction with either an Alencon central inverter or another vendor’s central inverter, making it ideal for retrofitting to existing PV plants or even using in hybrid PV applications such as combined PV and Wind installations. With our unique VIEWS monitoring software, we are able to leverage the internet of things, the PV-IoT, to see how well a plant is performing,” Schwabe continues.

More on the SPOT DC-DC Optimizer

Alencon’s SPOT is a powerful DC-DC optimizer. It performs MPPT on up to four strings at once to drastically reduce the effects of uneven soiling, cloud cover, sporadic damage and module degradation. The SPOT is able to accept and regulate voltage from each individual string of PV modules irrespective of their individual voltage rating.

SPOTs are capable of boosting operational voltage to 2,500 volts, which minimizes conduction losses and in turn reduces conductor requirements that lead to a lower overall balance of system (BOS) cost. The SPOT also comes with a number of unique, safety features including both arc and ground fault detection. Additionally, the SPOT allows solar operators to combine different ages and types of PV panels in the same solar array. Alencon’s SPOT offers galvanic isolation which provides a high degree of flexibility by connecting with many types of inverters. This functionality makes the SPOT particularly appropriate for hybrid PV installations.

RELATED: How optimizers bridge the gap to 1,500-volt PV systems 

More on the Central Inverter

Alencon’s GrIP central inverter is paired with an array of SPOTs to provide a centralized inverter scheme that is enticing for both its size and cost. Alencon’s GrIP central inverter modules scale up quickly in 2.5-MW modules. GrIPs employ a patented Harmonic Neutralization (HN) design, helping them break through the AC power-output ceiling found in today’s, utility-scale PV inverters that rely on the traditional pulse-width-modulation (PWM) method of power conversion. The HN approach to inverter design has a number of technical benefits over PWM, including:

• Smaller size, higher power density and lower equipment cost per MW rating as a result of utilizing very large semiconductors.

• High efficiency (99.5 percent) is achieved through low (50/60 Hz) switching frequency – hundreds of times lower than conventional PWM inverters.

• Reliability from simplified construction: several three-phase heavy-duty inverter modules operate concurrently from the same DC source into the same load, assuring that even the entire loss of one module only minimally affects power generation.

More on the PV-IoT

Alencon’s energy harvesting technology (SPOTs) and central inverters (GrIPs) are able to leverage the benefits of the internet of things to monitor plant performance with a visual SCADA system called VIEWS. The VIEWS software is connected to a series of sensors embedded into Alencon’s hardware, a concept referred to as the PV-IoT.

VIEWS provides a complete overview of your PV plant at a single glance. It graphically displays voltages, currents, PV string performance, semiconductor temperatures, control board temperatures, and more, with easy to understand visuals. An accurate model of a PV installation can be populated with performance data for use with future demonstrations, diagnostics and engineering support.
By leveraging the PV-IoT, users of Alencon product can gain unprecedented insight into the performance.

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