For the last 30 years, global technology giant Huawei has been offering leading Smart PV solutions that leverage its digital information technology. The company integrates AI and the cloud to ensure its PV is highly efficient, safe and reliable, and includes smart O&M and grid supporting capabilities.
More recently, Huawei launched an advanced solution for C&I and residential solar customers based on the ‘Optimal Electricity Cost and Active Safety’ concept, further broadening its range of technologies.
Solar Power Portal caught up with the company’s product manager Luis Castillo and its solution manager Ivan Ivanov to talk about the company’s string inverter technology, digitalisation and its next steps in the UK market.
Could you tell me a little about the FusionSolar technology and what makes it different to others?
Luis Castillo (LC): Well FusionSolar is our range of products dedicated to the solar PV sector. We have products at all levels of the market; residential, commercial and utility. The first characteristic would be that we only base our technology on string inverters. Since we started in 2013, we have had a product that we pushed through innovation making it different to what was offered in the market. We started with concepts like natural cooling, and then we introduced PLC power line communications, then we also had multiple MPPT architecture.
Then we slowly pushed for more innovation and digitalisation of our products, introducing tools like the IV curve diagnosis and nowadays we're pushing even more and using complex algorithms and AI to boost technology from Huawei. We are introducing new concepts in our inverters like arc fault circuit interruption (AFCI), which is a new way to do ARC fault detection that is more accurate and also the smart DC system that will be introduced to our inverters, which will use an optimised tracking algorithm to extract yield from sites with tracking. Now, we have over 130GW of string inverter deployed globally.
What does the automatic O&M consist of and why is it important?
LC: More than automatic O&M, I'd call it O&M free. Basically our inverter won't stop you from doing O&M to your site on other components, you will still need to do O&M to your site, but we completely erase O&M related to the inverter because we aim to provide an O&M free inverter built on the concept of natural cooling. This means there are no fans (with the exception of our 185KTL-H1 and 100KTL-M1 which use a smart cooling concept), no components that need a preventive maintenance or corrective maintenance.
Once you install the inverter then you can forget about that unit if you install it correctly. The idea is that the inverter lasts for its 25 year design life. In rare cases if the unit fails, we simply replace it.
Ivan Ivanov (II): Just to add to this, the O&M free inverter aspect is that with the digitalisation and the technology, which we implement in the inverter, you can even do remote troubleshooting of the PV modules.
All PV strings can be remotely scanned in one-click mode. For a 100MW PV plant, Smart I-V Curve Diagnosis can automatically generate a diagnosis report within 15 minutes and proactively send maintenance requests, issue diagnosis and accurate locations to O&M personnel. This achieves zero-inspection for PV plants. The application of Smart I-V Curve Diagnosis in actual PV plants significantly improves the energy yields. This is how AI technologies redefine O&M.
And beyond this smart O&M, how is digitalisation changing the PV industry?
II: Digitalisation is a big thing. Actually, it is a big thing for Huawei, because I believe that we were one of the first companies to introduce the digitalisation into the energy sector, and into the solar sector in general.
If you look back in recent years solar farms were simple and basic as they were not able to interact with other solar farms. What we did was turn the inverter into the brain of the solar farm nowadays, and you see that a lot of companies now are following this and in the future I believe that the inverter will be the most important part of the solar farm because more and more inverters will be asked to interact with the equipment on site, even with the modules and this will be in the near future.
Not to mention at transformer stations and for grid support. Nowadays, you can see that the DNOs and the grid companies are asking the inverter manufacturers to increasingly support the grid, and this is not going to be possible if digitalisation is not implemented.
So this is a key feature, I think in the technology route of every inverter manufacturer not only Huawei.
Could you tell me a little bit more about how you expect digitalisation and the integration of AI to develop more in the coming years?
II: Definitely. The background of Huawei is as an ICT company, so we are a technology driven company. In our products, you can see a lot of new features being implemented. AI is one of the features, which has been integrated in a lot of different features already in the Huawei range of products.
For example, we have implemented an AI algorithm for our arc fault circuit interrupter function, we have implemented an AI algorithm for the IV curve diagnosis, we have implemented an AI algorithm for the digital integration with tracking system.
In a lot of countries where the physical angle of the tracker is not optimal to get them higher yields, basically what we are doing is using the inverter to calculate this and it will then suggest an optimised angle for the tracker to make the PV string to generate more energy. So this is done by an AI algorithm.
AI algorithms are already being implemented for grid support too. So, in future I think more and more features will be using AI to be operating. So, for Huawei, this is a key thing.
And what are your plans going forwards in the UK market?
II: To make solar one of the top renewable energy sources!
LC: Specifically for our solar business, we are expanding our portfolio of products. We're bringing forward storage solutions for residential and small commercial applications. We are also bringing in a storage solution for utility scale applications, which we can see being very important for the market.
You will see the solar market in the next couple of years change from being all solar just as generators and just supporting the grid from the generation point of view, to hybrid solar sites where you have solar PV and storage and you will support the grid from the demand and generation point of view.
I think we can safely say that the 50MW size is the new normal. Everyone is doing 50MW because of the limitations on the planning. But you will also start to see bigger sites like 100MW or 200MW sites, like Cleve Hill solar farm for example. And storage will be a part of all of these sites.
So it is definitely paramount to have a solution for these market needs, and push all the innovation that we can do through to bring in something new to the market.
To find out more about Huawei’s FusionSolar product and its activities in the UK, tune into its webinars at the Huawei Community website - http://community.solar.huawei.com/en/home .