No Batteries Required: Page 3 of 4

Grid-Direct PV, Wind and Hydro-Electric Systems
Beginner

Inside this Article

Photovoltaic module
Photovoltaic module
Small-scale Wind Turbine
Small-scale Wind Turbine
Low-Power Hydro Turbine
Low-Power Hydro Turbine
Batteryless Inverter from Fronius
Batteryless Inverter from Fronius
Batteryless Inverter from SMA America
Batteryless Inverter from SMA America
Batteryless Inverter from Xantrex
Batteryless Inverter from Xantrex
Batteryless Inverter from Kaco
Batteryless Inverter from Kaco
Batteryless Inverter from Solectria
Batteryless Inverter from Solectria
The power-conditioning and utility-feed components of a grid-direct PV system.
The power-conditioning and utility-feed components of a grid-direct PV system.
Resistance air-heater diversion load
Resistance air-heater diversion load, with protective guard removed to show the resistors.
A typical power wall configuration for a grid-direct wind power system.
A typical power wall configuration for a grid-direct wind power system.
Two 2.3 KW Hi Power turbines feed 100-plus KWH a day directly to the grid.
Two 2.3 KW Hi Power turbines feed 100-plus KWH a day directly to the grid.
This microhydro system uses two SMA inverters and two ARE controllers
This microhydro system uses two SMA inverters and two ARE controllers, originally built for grid-direct wind systems. Two 2.3 KW Hi Power turbines feed 100-plus KWH a day directly to the grid.
Photovoltaic module
Small-scale Wind Turbine
Low-Power Hydro Turbine
Batteryless Inverter from Fronius
Batteryless Inverter from SMA America
Batteryless Inverter from Xantrex
Batteryless Inverter from Kaco
Batteryless Inverter from Solectria
The power-conditioning and utility-feed components of a grid-direct PV system.
Resistance air-heater diversion load
A typical power wall configuration for a grid-direct wind power system.
Two 2.3 KW Hi Power turbines feed 100-plus KWH a day directly to the grid.
This microhydro system uses two SMA inverters and two ARE controllers

PART 2, GRID-DIECT WIND SYSTEMS:

Direct grid-tie, batteryless wind systems are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. small wind market. This growth is being fueled by demand for simpler, more efficient systems and incentive programs that compensate owners for the amount of energy their system produces. Wind turbines were previously used mostly by off-gridders, but the new market for residential-scale wind turbines is primarily for grid-tie applications.

Batteries or No?

The same arguments for batteryless grid-tied PV systems also apply to wind systems. Additionally, most direct grid-tie turbines are configured for higher voltages than their battery-charging counterparts (typically above 200 VDC, compared to 12 to 48 VDC nominal). These high-voltage turbines allow the use of smaller transmission wiring, which significantly reduces wire and conduit cost.

Batteryless wind systems offer an increase in operating efficiency that results in higher overall energy production compared to battery-based systems. Most grid-direct systems use a batteryless inverter with maximum power point tracking (MPPT) capability, which maximizes turbine output and can increase overall system production by 20% to 50% depending on turbine and wind conditions at the site.

Inverters for Grid-Direct Wind Systems 

There are several models of batteryless grid-tie inverters for residential-scale wind systems. The best known is SMA America’s Windy Boy, essentially a Sunny Boy PV inverter with firmware modifications that allow the MPPT function to work with the rapid voltage fluctuations unique to wind turbines. Several turbine manufacturers, including Abundant Renewable Energy (ARE) and Proven Wind Energy, have developed grid-direct systems using this inverter.

The Windy Boy requires an interface between the wind turbine and the inverter to protect it from overvoltage damage. The typical interface is a voltage clamp that consists of a rectifier to convert the turbine’s wild (unregulated) three-phase AC output to DC, and a control circuit to divert energy to a diversion load—typically an air- or water-heating element.

The potential for overvoltage exists when the turbine is producing in high winds and the inverter is not connected to the grid due to a utility outage, or during the turbine start-up phase. In the event of a utility outage, the voltage clamp sends all power produced to the diversion load, preventing turbine overspeed and protecting the inverter. During the start-up phase, a pulse-width modulation (PWM) circuit sends some energy to the diversion load to keep the voltage within the inverter’s DC input window.

The ARE110 and ARE442 turbines use this type of voltage clamp and diversion load assembly. The Proven WT2.5 uses mechanical turbine governing instead of a voltage clamp assembly to keep the voltage in range. Kestrel turbines, distributed by DC Power Systems, have a proprietary control package for grid-direct applications. Eoltec turbines use the Aurora inverter manufactured by Magnetek. The Aurora is a true MPPT inverter with wind interface functionality that acts as a voltage clamp. Additionally, the inverter can be programmed to optimize the power curve to match the output of a specific wind turbine. The Bergey Excel uses the Grid Tek 10 inverter, which loads the turbine to the maximum safe power point at any given rpm.

Specialized Grid-Direct Turbines

The S250 turbine by Endurance Wind Power does not use an inverter to interface with the grid. The S250 is an induction machine, similar in design to medium and large utility-scale wind turbines that use a speed increaser drivetrain to spin the generator above synchronous speed. This allows 60-hertz power to be delivered directly from the generator to the grid without the need for power conditioning or conversion. The overall efficiency between rotor power and grid-compatible electrical power is about 75% at 10% of rated output and 85% at rated output of 5 KW. An internal disc-brake system protects the turbine from overspeed if grid power is lost.

Southwest Windpower’s Skystream turbine has an inverter integrated into the body of the turbine itself. The turbine’s output is grid-synchronous 240 VAC that can be fed directly to a home’s main load center. The turbine uses electronic stall regulation that begins to slow the blades when the rotor speed exceeds 360 rpm.

Access

Roy Butler is a technical editor for Home Power and owner of Four Winds Renewable Energy in Arkport, New York. Roy is a NABCEP-certified PV installer. He sits on the NABCEP technical review committee for PV and wind system installer certification, as well as the Small Wind Certification Council board of directors. 

Wind Turbine Manufacturers:

Abundant Renewable Energy • www.abundantre.com

Bergey Windpower Co. • www.bergey.com

Endurance Wind Power • www.endurancewindpower.com

Eoltec • www.pineridgeproducts.comwww.solacity.com

Kestrel • www.dcpower-systems.com

Proven • www.provenenergy.co.uk

Southwest Windpower • www.windenergy.com

Grid-Direct Inverters for Wind Systems:

SMA America • www.sma-america.com

Magnetek • www.magnetek.com

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