Smarter inverter systems and BOS cost reductions

Why is this gap important?

Higher PV shares, particularly in distribution grids, will necessitate the development of new ways to inject power into the grid and to manage generation from solar PV systems. The inverter and the rest of the power control system is generally the gateway for smart-management measures, and while technology has been proved, systems will need to become smarter and provide a broader range of voltage, reactive power and other ancillary services to the grid. Beyond making inverters smarter, the overall balance-of-system (BOS) costs (which include inverters) should be a key area of focus, as they can take up 40‑60% of all investment costs in a PV plant, depending on the region.

Technology solutions

Solar smart inverters need to enable rooftop solar PV systems to automatically stabilise their own collective disruptions to the grid. At higher PV penetrations, they need to incorporate communication equipment that interacts in real time with utilities, increasing the visibility of the overall condition of low- and medium-voltage grids. Increasingly, they will also need to offer ancillary services such as reactive power or ramping controls.

There is currently no standard communication protocol to manage active power from large numbers of PV plants, and further work is required on interoperability and standardisation of both the ICT and PV systems.

Beyond inverters, most solutions for reducing BOS costs focus on 'soft' measures that nevertheless could benefit from increased R&D and other innovation efforts.

Reactive power control Readiness level:

Wide-area active power control Readiness level:

Colored bars represent the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of each technology. Learn more about TRLs