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Huawei expert on how AI is transforming the solar energy industry

Huawei expert on how AI is transforming the solar energy industry

Digital TransformationGreen TechnologyThought LeadershipTop Stories

Robin Zhu, Head of Smart PV Business in the Middle East, Huawei, outlines some emerging trends for the smart solar industry for 2025 and introduces Huawei’s latest FusionSolar 6.0+ solution.

With the rapid development of ICT technologies such as AI, cloud, Big Data and 5G, Huawei has engaged with experts in the field and has released 10 emerging technical trends for solar energy and smart PV for 2025.

Full intelligence: In the future, data will become the most fundamental resource for the digital world and all data in the PV plant from modules, trackers and inverters will be detected. We expect 90% of PV plants will be fully digitalised by 2025.

This mass data will be processed with AI to help improve system operation efficiency, previously performed solely by human experience. We expect AI to be deployed in system design optimisation for detection, solar storage collaboration and ultimately to make the whole system smarter. By 2025, 70% of PV plants will adopt AI.

We believe unmanned operation and maintenance will be mainstream. Drones will be deployed for inspections and assistant robots will be able to help repair and replace devices with remote control. We expect by 2025, 80% of the PV plants will be unmanned at least with light manual operation.

Grid supporting: Currently the installation capacity of renewable energy accounts for 10% of the total power plants where energy generation accounts for only 2% at this moment. In the future, renewable energy will become the main energy source as significantly more PV plants will be connected to the power grid. Therefore, we expect PV plants to transform from following the grid to actively supporting the grid. When the grid integration failure occurs, the PV plant should not be tripped and the output power should be stable with low harmonics in order to maintain the voltage and the frequency of the grid.

The PV plant storage is expected to be a new trend for grid supporting. In 2025, we expect 30% of new PV plants will have energy storage. However, the smart collaboration between the solar and the storage to improve the system efficiency will be another new project for the PV solution suppliers.

Also, 80% of residential systems will connect to virtual power plants (VPP) networks by 2025.

System and the components upgrade: With the development of the material and heat dissipation and algorithm, we expect components in PV solutions will be upgraded in three ways.

First will be modular design of components for flexible deployment. Second is power density – in the future, inverter power density will increase by 50%. Lastly, we will see reliability, availability, security, safety, resilience and privacy become essential requirements.

Based on these understandings, Huawei created FusionSolar 6.0+ Utility Smart PV. The solution consists of smart inverters, a controller for the data transmission and control, a smart transformer station for overseas IPS solution and a Smart PV management system for real-time monitoring and management.

Our latest improvements on the solution are testament to how we deploy AI technology in FusionSolar: 1) Smart Tracker Control Algorithm, 2) Smart I-V Curve Diagnosis 4.0 and 3) Smart Grid-connection Algorithm.

At Huawei, we use the AI-Boost FusionSolar Smart PV solution with the aim of reducing LCOE and supporting the grid with the following three key features:

  1. Smart Tracker Control Algorithm

The tracker can significantly increase the energy generation. More and more PV plants deploy trackers to reduce LCOE. Currently, the trackers rely on an astronomic algorithm to ensure the modules to be perpendicular to the direct sunlight. However, the uneven landscape in the PV plant is not being considered. The shading between different rows of PV panels could reduce the yields. In cloudy days, the diffused light accounts for a higher ratio than that of normal days. And the tracking angle without optimisation can’t harvest as much power as when the light is scattered.

Huawei integrates AI and the collaborative energy generation with a tracking algorithm to optimise the tracking angle through the recurrent neural network, based on the mass data from the plant performance. And during the backtracking, Huawei adopts each row to avoid inter-row shading and capture more solar energy.

What we have introduced here is only achieved by the algorithm upgrade without the cost of any additional devices. We have tested this technology in PV plants in different latitudes. And the results show that, compared with standard mode, the smart control algorithm can improve energy generation by at least 0.5%. This technology utilises standard interface and communication protocol and it’s quite easy to collaborate with different vendors of trackers.

  • Smart I-V Curve Diagnosis

We also use AI to reduce OPEX as we improve I-V curve diagnosis. This idea came about following discussions between ourselves and a strategic customer. We developed an online inspection and diagnosis of all PV strings. Compared with the conventional solution that uses on-site sampling test and time-consuming manual analysis, the smart I-V curve diagnosis can largely shorten the site inspection time from weeks to half a day.

AI learns based on experts’ knowledge and can accurately identify 14 types of string failure which is certified by TÜV. These diagnoses can further provide trouble shooting solutions to close the loop in the O&M process. This function has already been deployed in 5GW PV plants worldwide and the number is still growing.

Huawei continues to upgrade the algorithm to suit more and more scenarios. This year, the 4th generation can support diagnosis of the mono, bifacial and shingle PV modules. It is also compatible with the mix installation of different PV modules in one string. The function is provided through licensing and any of our current customers with Huawei Smart PV solution, either for their existing or the new PV plans, are welcome to test it out.

  • Smart grid-connection algorithm

As the LCOE of PV continuously decreases, solar is expected to become the major energy source according to the International Energy Agency’s outlook. In the near future, over 30% of the annual newly installed power plant will be the PV plant. However, with the increase in renewable energy construction, the short circuit ratio (SCR) of the power grid is gradually reduced. We can see the SCR in some countries will be going down quite significantly. Or in another way, more and more regions will face a new challenge of a weak grid. It is expected that between 2025 and 2030, the SCR will be lower than two in a lot of countries.

Huawei has been researching grid connection technologies for many years and improved its control accuracy. Currently, Huawei has achieved stable grid-connection in all PV scenarios. We are confident that our algorithm can help our clients to build a robust system with more resilience.

The smart inverters could support SCR as low as 1.5 to avoid frequent synchronisation failure incidents. Moreover, the Huawei solution is capable of providing better POD (power oscillation damping) control, which has already been considered and partially adopted with some of our clients in Latin America.

In summary, as digitalisation transforms key industries, we could see the trend of All Things Sensing, All Things Connected and All Things Intelligent happening in the PV industry too. To achieve this vision, smart inverters are key components to reshape the industry. Inverters are no longer just converting DC (direct current) electricity to AC (alternating current), but to control and diagnose the health of the PV systems, ultimately making the system smart and intelligent.

At Huawei, our vision is to bring digital to every person, home and organisation for a fully connected, intelligent world. This would apply to the solar energy industry. We advocate building an AI-enabled smart PV ecosystem by working with clients, policymakers, upstream and downstream partners to create a fully connected and digital PV system.

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