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SMA Solar to target off-grid with hybrid genset controls

Fri, 11/16/2012 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Germany’s leading solar power company SMA Solar is to launch a genset control system in 2013 that will allow diesel generators to draw power from solar panels, potentially bringing down the cost of power generation in remote areas.

The company, the world’s biggest maker of the solar inverters which turn electricity generated by a solar module into electricity that can be fed into the grid, told Reuters it aims to start mass-producing its Fuel Save controller from early 2013. Just as the computer in a hybrid car decides whether to draw on battery or fuel power, the controller determines the most efficient way of using energy generated by a solar panels and diesel generator.

“Potentially, this is a gigantic market. But you need to differentiate between potential and reality,” said Matthias Vetter, expert in autonomous power supplies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems.

SMA gave no details about how much the products would cost. Its rivals - off-grid power specialist Elgris and unlisted German firm Juwi - have also begun to develop products to make diesel and solar power run efficiently side by side.

SMA said a successful market entry in the solar-diesel hybrid market would lead to “an increase in sales during the coming years”, but declined to be more specific. Territories with high solar radiation - such as Australia, South America and the Middle East - would be target markets for the fuel-save technology, SMA said.

Potential customers include companies, water desalination plants, mines, hospitals, hotels, holiday parks or remote villages with no access to grids. It would likely be too expensive for smaller users, it said.