This is an excerpt from the November 17, 2011: New Incubator funding, plug-and-play solar, and CSP application deadline edition of the SunShot newsletter.
Workshop Explores Plug-and-Play Concept
DOE is taking a fresh look at the grid and distributed photovoltaic (PV) systems as a whole and exploring new technology pathways to rearrange the system components, functional requirements, and interfaces. At the heart of this new approach is the plug-and-play concept, which has been utilized very successfully in many industries, particularly the computer and automotive industries.
On October 27, 2011, the SunShot Initiative held a workshop in Washington, D.C., focused on the development of plug-and-play solar technologies in the residential sector. The purpose of the workshop was to identify the current barriers and possible solutions for these technologies. Over 60 people attended the conference, including representatives from utilities, code officials, inverter companies, PV module companies, and installers.
Plug-and-play applications for the solar industry must have the following qualities:
- Simple installation: The PV system must be simple enough to install in only a few hours by people with no special expertise or training. This most likely requires the use of an AC module and no conventional racking materials.
- No permitting or commissioning required: Traditional PV systems may need both electrical and structural permits depending on the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Permits are generally required to ensure that installing the equipment does not create a public hazard. Removing the need for a structural permit may require the development of lightweight/flexible AC modules that are easy to install and will cause no hazard even if they do fall from the roof.
- Smart grid capability: Upon interconnection with the utility, the PV system will communicate to the utility all the pertinent information required to ensure that it does not interfere with the normal operation of the grid. The inverter may also need other capabilities (reactive power, voltage regulation, etc.) to ensure normal grid operation as well. This assumes that the utility is set up to receive information from the PV system, has the ability to make appropriate decisions based on the information it provides, and may require command and control to maintain grid reliability.
The workshop covered the broadest topic areas for residential PV systems including module technology, power electronics design, grid integration approaches, racking hardware design, and installation process. Results from the workshop are available.