The ICSEG is contributing to renewable energy research with the installation of an experimental solar array on the south side of the University of Illinois campus. Co-principal investigators Robert Pilawa-Podgurski and Alejandro Domínguez García will coordinate experiments and guide student research in areas such as innovative control, grid connections, and advances in microinverters and power electronics. The array allows experimental work, including integrating custom firmware and hardware into the commercial power inverters, to be tested and validated on a real system in the real world, rather than only on a small laboratory scale. Participating students will also have an opportunity to learn about working with devices connected to the power grid.
The solar test bed consists of 60 panels separated into five blocks of twelve. Three types of inverters (convert direct current [dc] output to grid-compatible alternating current [ac]) made by three different manufacturers – SMA, Tigo, and SolarBridge Technologies – with different configurations will allow current commercial technology to be compared to ISEG’s new designs. The test bed is connected to a building equipped with power and Ethernet jacks so that solar energy from the array can be sent into the building and the array can be monitored remotely. Because it is connected to the power grid, the energy created by the test bed will be fed back into campus to help reduce energy costs.
The test bed is part of the Smart Grid Validation and Test Facility that has been the basis for ICSEG’s mission since it began in 2010. The main test bed, located in the Coordinated Science Laboratory, contains extensive substation equipment, capabilities for “hardware-in-the-loop” simulation using this equipment, and sophisticated test harnesses for experimental setups. The solar array expands the test bed capability by providing access to microinverter technology and a facility that actually generates power. Research is funded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Information above from written by Katie Carr, published on July 16, 2013.