INTERSOLAR: SMA award for hybrid

SMA Solar Technology, the world's largest inverter maker, has won the Intersolar Award in the PV category for its Fuel Save Controller.

The product integrates "significant shares" of PV into diesel-powered energy systems - a promising technology for off-grid systems.

The Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, which account for more than one third of diesel and gas turbine sales, are a highly promising market for hybrid energy systems, SMA says.

Diesel generators have been the standard for supplying power to non-electrified areas or for backing up unstable utility grids, due to their low cost. But the rise of fuel prices over the past few years has pushed up the cost of diesel-generated power to a degree that PV can reduce electricity prices substantially.

"The payback periods for an investment in a PV/diesel hybrid system are extremely short, at between three to five years on average. In addition, the system can subsequently be expanded at any time without any problems," says Volker Wachenfeld, SMA's senior vice-president, hybrid & storage.

O&M costs of such large-scale hybrid systems could be greatly reduced and, depending on the system design, up to 450,000 litres of diesel could be saved per year with a 1MW PV system, SMA claims.