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Talking solar, energy storage inverter trends with Frank Qiao, Growatt

Frank Qiao of Growatt.

With the rise of solar-plus-storage applications round the world, Frank Qiao, sales director at Growatt New Energy, talked to our sister site PV Tech about some of the key inverter trends and new products. Established in 2010, China-headquartered Growatt has reached over 5GW of inverter installations worldwide. 

What kind of movements are you seeing in inverter technology worldwide at present?

Frank Qiao: String inverters are getting bigger and bigger in capacity, and low capacity central inverters are being replaced gradually, even in utility-scale applications. Growatt is launching its own 80kW string inverters soon to provide flexible choices to customers.

In terms of inverter sales, which markets do you expect growth in during 2017 and 2018?

The Chinese market is the fastest growing for Growatt in terms of total revenue in the upcoming years.

We are also expecting more outcome from India in the utility-scale market. For on-grid storage systems, with coming new products we are definitely seeing more opportunities in developed markets such as Europe and Australia. Our hybrid and off-grid inverters on the other hand will be penetrating less developed areas in Asia and Africa.  

What trends in energy storage inverter technology are you witnessing?

As with the development of solar technologies, solar-plus-storage solutions are receiving lots of attention since they are capable of solving intermittency of renewable energy “time-shifting”. As a result, solar and energy storage inverters have started becoming prevalent all over the world.  The current trend is that storage inverters with a high voltage battery bank - with operating voltage range 350-450VDC - have higher efficiency of utilising solar energy compared with a traditional battery with nominal voltage at 48VDC.  Meanwhile, AC coupled and all-in-one hybrid inverters that consist of battery charge controller and PV inverter are turning into the main solutions for residential solar energy applications in Europe and Asia-Pacific region for their unique, convenient and economical features.

Growatt PCS500 battery inverter for large-scale storage systems. Image: Growatt Facebook page.

What are your target markets globally for the storage application?

For the grid-tied residential storage system, we started first in Australia. Some European countries are also showing good potential like Italy, UK, Germany etc. For hybrid and off-grid storage systems, the major market is in less developed countries in Asia and Africa, which need the system for back-up power supply.

How are you looking at the utility-scale storage market?

As renewable energy installations boom, the utility grid is facing great pressure and some countries like Thailand and India are launching new policies to make it mandatory for a proportion of storage in large-scale PV plants to be installed for grid regulation and compensation. So for sure, in the coming years, the megawatt-scale storage market will be a big cake. Growatt is able to provide 500kW battery inverters, scalable up to several megawatts, perfect for this kind of application.

What products are you set to launch this year?

For hybrid and off-grid storage systems, under our offerings soon to be launched, we will be able to provide up to 6kW for residential applications, and from 30kW up to 500kW for commercial and industrial applications, flexible DC coupled and AC coupled solutions available for different configurations. Our large scale lithium-ion battery bank development is also ongoing which will be available in the near future.