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Low-cost photovoltaic inverters for extreme climatic conditions

The technology of today’s PV inverters is geared towards European climate zones. Growth markets for PV are mainly located in the sun-rich southern region of the earth, where increased demands are placed on the ambient conditions of the technology used. These climate zones require new technical concepts and – due to the weak capital of these regions – also significantly lower production prices.

This is the challenge of the PV-LEO research project, which is coordinated by the inverter manufacturer Kaco new energy. The primary goal of the research team is a significant improvement of the

  • reliability in extreme climatic environments
  • power density
  • manufacturing costs

Reliability is to be enhanced by a novel, modular design concept without external ventilation and improved components. This approach opens up new possibilities of automizability in production, which considerably reduces production costs.

In order to increase the power density, the operating frequency is to be at least doubled compared with the prior art. For this purpose, new semiconductor materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) are mandatory. The semiconductor material SiC enables a higher power density, a high temperature ruggedness and significantly lower switching losses at high operating frequencies compared to the conventional silicon. With the higher operating frequencies, there is an additional potential for savings in volume and weight and the resulting material costs. The research objectives require further improved semiconductor switches based on SiC, novel high-performance magnetic components and reliable capacitors for use in harsh climatic zones.