Advancements in utility-scale solar inverter design give developers plentiful options

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Utility-scale solar projects are getting bigger and bigger, with the largest project approved in the United States (as of August 2021) coming in at a whopping 690 MWAC. Choosing the best inverter is increasingly important to generate the massive amount of energy these projects strive for.

Project developers select inverters before they even submit an interconnection application. Utilities must know those details in order to perform studies that determine the impacts of the solar projects on the grid.

“The inverter is one of the very important components to the studies and basically allows us to see the project at the very early stage of development,” said Vishrut Bhatt, industry segment manager of renewable energy systems at TMEIC.

Manufacturers of modules, racking and inverters typically collaborate at the beginning of a project’s lifecycle to give developers the best plan for their projects, according to Maren Schmidt, managing director of the utility line of business at Fimer.

“We all have to work together,” Schmidt said. “We have the project developers, the EPCs, the technical advisors — we have to think in system together with the module producers and the tracker producers because the aim has to be to optimize the yield.”

During this planning period, developers are looking at utility requirements, financial objectives and product forecasts, said Brian Taddonio, VP of engineering for Blue Ridge Power, the newly formed EPC arm of Pine Gate Renewables. Developers need to be sure the inverter they’re choosing will still be around two or three years in the future when the project actually breaks ground.

“It’s looking at the past history of these manufacturers and where we believe they are, how healthy their company is at that point in time and their projections for those upcoming quarters,” Taddonio said.