“SolarTie: Integration of grid interconnection technologies”
India is one of the fastest growing and rapidly modernizing economies in the world. We simply cannot accept power outages, particularly when solutions are available today. Stating this Sudhir Gadh, Country Manager-India, American Superconductor Corporation & Perry Schugart, Director of Power Converter Business, American Superconductor Corporation in an interview with Energetica India, discussed about the importance of grid interconnection solutions in India.
Could you please elaborate about SolarTie and its technology?
Perry Schugart: AMSC’s SolarTie™ grid interconnection solution is a utility-scale system designed specifically for megawatt-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants. The SolarTie solution combines two of AMSC's proven and proprietary technologies - D-VAR® STATCOM solutions and PowerModule™ power converter systems - that are today connecting over 15 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy to the grid. This amounts to about 10% of the world’s wind generated electricity.
By coupling best-in-class power converter capabilities with AMSC's world-renowned dynamic reactive compensation technology, the SolarTie product represents the industry's first fully optimized solution for utility-scale PV power plant developers.
With a base rating of 1.7 megawatts (MW) and a turn-on voltage of up to 1,000 volts (VDC), the SolarTie solution is one of the most robust power inverter systems available in the market.
In highly dynamic grid environments like India, the robustness of the SolarTie can maximize power generation time and therefore revenue generation. Less tolerant systems can trip offline during even minor grid disturbances.
Additionally, there is added assurance with the SolarTie systems’ ability to capture and document grid disturbances that can impact the plants ability to deliver power to the grid – power purchase agreements can have penalties for missed power production if the source of the disruption is unknown.
How SolarTie is different from the other available inverters in India?
Perry Schugart: India’s grid faces significant challenges in respect to frequency and voltage excursions that are caused, in part, as a result of insufficient generation. The inverters being used in India today are mostly commercial or industrial types; they are small, lack the robustness of the SolarTie and not suited for utility environments. This means that they are unable to stay online during a disturbance and that they cannot support the grid when support is needed most.
To India, this means that PV plants with these types of inverters are tripping offline. Each time a plant is tripped offline, the developer loses revenue and the consumer can experience power quality issues or outages.
In addition, there may also be financial penalties for the plant owner if the plant is not generating power to the grid or missing its power production quota.
The SolarTie is the most robust solution on the market. It will stay online and ride through disturbances. Moreover it will support the grid during a disturbance to minimize the disruption in power production. The longer and more consistently a PV plant stays online, the more consistent power it provides to homes and businesses in India and the more revenue it provides to the developer.
What business does AMSC expects from launch of SolarTie in India?
Sudhir Gadh: Solar energy has tremendous potential in India. India’s topography and climate allow for large-scale solar plants. For example, the Thar Desert, which has been set aside for solar power projects, is sufficient to generate 700,000 to 2,100,000 MW of electricity. The country plans to install 20,000 MW of solar PV and solar thermal power plants across the country by 2022. Moreover, the proposals for the first 1,000 MW projects to be completed by 2013 have already been approved.
We expect India to be an important market for AMSC’s SolarTie grid interconnection solution.
Did you launch SolarTie in China? If yes, what is the response it is getting there?
Perry Schugart: Yes, we launched SolarTie globally. China has been a leader in renewable energy and in the last decade, has adopted wind energy much faster than any other country in the world. We expect that China will follow a similar path for solar energy and will also be an important market for AMSC’s SolarTie.
AMSC is recognized for wind offerings in India. Had the Solar Mission have encouraged to venture into solar space?
Sudhir Gadh: The Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission is a visionary step by the Government of India, as it focuses on leveraging the abundant solar resources to help India to take care of its huge gap in power generation and demand.
We are extremely excited about the solar power opportunity in India, and have therefore focused our development and marketing efforts, to offer a product that ideally takes care of the climatic, market and technical requirements for solar farms in India. We are confident that in a couple of years, we will be as well recognized in the solar space, as we are in the wind space in India.
We, of course, hope that the actual implementation of the Solar Mission will be in line with the announced plans and timelines.
What are India’s current grid codes? Are they sufficient? Or do they need to be improved?
Sudhir Gadh: The use of renewable energy in India is increasing manifold, and it has therefore become imperative that government and regulatory boards introduce Grid code standards for all forms of Renewable energy that ensure a safe and technically reliable connection.
We expect new grid codes to come into effect shortly. These codes will undoubtedly cover wind farms and since solar is the next big wave in India, we strongly encourage that these codes simultaneously cover solar as well. It is only logical to prepare for the future and appropriately plan all renewables into the grid code.
With improved grid codes, grid operators can maintain a safe and reliable electricity supply throughout India.
AMSC entered the India market a couple of years ago – how is AMSC’s experience in India?
Sudhir Gadh: AMSC entered Indian market a couple of years ago by offering their megawatt-size wind turbine designs to Indian manufacturers, and we have achieved our desired objectives. Our Wind Licensee has achieved successful prototype production and has started full scale commercial production of wind turbines in India using our technology.
Regarding the Indian Wind Turbine market-we anticipate a sustained growth in the market size, and we are confident of achieving a strategic position in this market with very high market penetration in years to come. We also expect our Indian Licensees to successfully start exporting Wind Turbines to other countries.
We have since introduced our other products in India, such as our Amperium™ superconductor wire, D-VAR dynamic reactive compensation technology and – of course – SolarTie, our grid interconnection solution for utility scale PV plants.
The response from the Indian market for these products has been very encouraging and we expect to build strong business with these products as the country increases its renewable energy use and improves its power grid.