Pursuing innovation in renewables

Solar Impulse 2 is a shining example of renewables innovation. Long innovation strides are delivering big benefits.

Faced with a stubborn home-improvement problem, many handymen reach for a bigger tool, apply greater force, or crank up the power … often with unsatisfactory and sometimes disastrous results.

Turns out, more power actually is the solution to some problems. When it comes to renewable power, solar-generation facilities are eagerly eyeing the recently announced ABB 1,500 VDC components with integral smart grid technology. It wasn’t that many years ago that utility solar power was typically carried from panels to inverters at 600 VDC. Then there was a widespread movement to the more-efficient 1,000 VDC. Now we’re bumping the efficiency up again with the next generation 1,500 VDC technology. At this higher voltage, solar power providers will be able to transfer more power using the same conductors while maintaining the amperage.

It will be a while before the new voltage is widely adopted. There aren’t many systems out there that work at 1,500 VDC, and there are few standards, codes, and regulations in place. But there’s little doubt that the increased efficiency of existing networks and the reduced cost for new networks will provide the invisible hand that pushes solar power providers to adopt 1,500 VDC.

What’s the next great leap forward in solar generation technology? If I could predict that I would invest big in the technology and probably be able to retire in a few years. The fact is that innovation is a difficult and unpredictable endeavor. Innovation never stops because, no matter how good the technology or process is, it can be better. Whether it’s an incremental improvement or a big-leap breakthrough, the next big thing is always coming down the line.

There’s the saying that “Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, and some wonder, ‘What the heck happened?’” Manufacturers, utilities, government agencies, and others are all striving to make things happen in renewable energy. They are coming together to develop more efficient ways to generate, transmit, distribute, and control renewable energy. It may sound grand, but I genuinely feel that by encouraging greater use of renewable energy, the people here at ABB are playing a small part in making this a better world.

Image credit Global Panorama via flickr.com 

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About the author

Allen Austin

With more than 25 years of experience in test engineering, product management, program management and industry management, Allen brings a wealth of knowledge to the emerging Solar industry.  In his current role at ABB, Allen is responsible for increasing ABB awareness, foot print and overall market presence for solar,  wind & other renewable energy Industries for low voltage products.  Allen has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Purdue University with a dual major in Electrical Engineering and Technology and a Mater’s Certificate in Business Administration(C/MBA) from Tulane University.
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