PFi Air Technology Translation: Smart Power Protection Devices for Photovoltaic Installations
This PFI: AIR Technology Translation project focuses on translating smart fault detection methods for photovoltaic (PV) installations to fill the technology gap of identifying and protecting against dangerous electrical faults in solar PV installations. The translated science/technology has the following unique features: 1) it uses machine learning to identify fault type and fault location in the PV arrays; 2) it will be able to clear faults that traditional fuses or other fault protection devices cannot presently clear; 3) it will be a fully integrated fuse holder and box that has user interface allowing the user to monitor the PV array performance. The new solar PV protection technology will be able to isolate, clear, and identify the type and location of PV fault. This includes several types of faults that presently pose fire hazards to PV installations, such as line-to-line faults that may occur when branches or wires accidentally connect two different PV arrays in a big installation. The new, smart fuse protection adds exemplary safety, reliability, and even increased energy delivery when compared to the leading competing science/technology, such as traditional fuses or circuit breakers in this market space.
The project accomplishes this goal by running smart fault detection algorithms that utilize machine learning, nonlinear model prediction of PVs, intelligent measurements of PV currents and voltages, resulting in a method to identify hazardous fault location and types. Prototype smart over-current protection devices will be built with miniaturized self-contained electronics. The protection devices will be tested in PV installations to demonstrate their commercial viability and benefits.
The partnership engages Mersen USA Newburyport-LLC to provide guidance in the fuse/over-current protection manufacturing and commercial market. Mersen will help manufacture the prototype smart fuse holders and test them in their lab PV facilities. Throughout the project, Mersen will lead product testing, customer surveys and other aspects of commercialization and financing as they pertain to the potential to translate the smart PV fuse protection science/technology along a path that may result in a competitive commercial reality. The potential economic impact is expected to be 1) the creation of a new product market in smart PV protection fuses projected to reach more than $750k annually within 2 to 3 years of the project conclusion and 2) the further acceptance of solar PV energy in the consumer marketplace by making the PV installations safer to the consumer. The smart PV protection devices will contribute to the U.S. competitiveness in this PV installation market, since each installation of solar PV array must utilize (usually multiple) over-current protection devices, such as fuses. The societal impact, long term, will be improved safety of any PV installation, increased energy yield due to immediate knowledge of fault, and better diagnosis in real-time of any reductions of energy yield caused by PV arrays that may need repair.
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