Lightweight PV Inverters

Ideal Power Converters (IPC)
Dual Bi-Directional IGBTs Modules Enables Breakthrough PV Inverter Using Current Modulation Topology
Graphic of IPC's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,500,000
Location: 
Spicewood, TX
Project Term: 
01/30/2012 to 01/29/2015
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Photovoltaic (PV) solar systems convert the sun's energy into electricity, but only a small percentage of the sunlight that reaches a PV system is converted into useful electricity. This is due in part to the inefficient and failure-prone electrical components used in most PV systems today. Improving the performance of these components would lower the overall cost of PV systems--helping to make renewable solar energy cost-competitive with conventional, nonrenewable forms of electricity generation.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
PV inverters convert DC power generated by modules into usable AC power. IPC's initial 30kW 94lb. PV inverter reduces the weight of comparable 30kW PV inverters by 90%--reducing the cost of materials, manufacturing, shipping, and installation. With ARPA-E support, new bi-directional silicon power switches will be developed, commercialized, and utilized in IPC's next-generation PV inverter. With these components, IPC will produce 100kW inverters that weight less than 100lb., reducing the weight of conventional 3,000lb. 100kW inverters by more than 95%. The new power switches will cut IPC's $/W manufacturing cost in half, as well as further reduce indirect shipping and installation costs.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, IPC would reduce the weight of PV system components by 95%--significantly reducing the cost to manufacture, ship, and install PV systems.
Security: 
Lowering the cost of PV systems would help increase the use of solar energy, which in turn would decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and improve U.S. energy security.
Environment: 
Solar energy systems create zero harmful emissions while providing energy to homes and businesses, so their widespread use would significantly improve air quality.
Economy: 
This project could help position the U.S. as a leader in the power electronics industry.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Timothy Heidel
Project Contact: 
Dr. Paul Bundschuh
Partners
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Virginia Polytechnic Institute