Asee peer logo

Board 34: A Cross-Institution Collaboration: Analysis of Power Electronic Technologies for Solar Panel Arrays

Download Paper |

Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

19

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30012

Download Count

25

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Jill Davishahl Bellingham Technical College

visit author page

Jill Davishahl is a faculty member in the engineering department at Bellingham Technical College where she teaches courses ranging from Intro to Engineering Design to Engineering Statics. Outside of teaching, Jill is working on the design and development of a Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Technology and is currently PI on an NSF funded ATE project grant in renewable energy. She holds a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington.

visit author page

biography

Xichen Jiang Western Washington University

visit author page

Xichen Jiang joined the department of electrical engineering at Western Washington University in 2016 as an assistant professor. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degree all in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. While a student there, Xichen has interned with Coilcraft, Proctor and Gamble, Exxon Mobil, and Viasat.

visit author page

author page

Sean P. Dever Western Washington University

author page

Lindsey Bear Bellingham Technical College

biography

Tim Mark Christman Western Washington University

visit author page

Tim Christman is a Under Graduate Researcher studying Electrical Engineering at Western Washington University. His research interests include Cyber Physical Systems, and Estimation of Stochastic Processes.

visit author page

biography

Dana Hickenbottom Itek Energy/Western Solar

visit author page

Dana has worked in the solar industry for 5 years. He started his career at itek Energy, a domestic solar module manufacturer based in Bellingham, WA. During his time as Technical Support Manager he worked to ensure product functionality in the field, assisted with research and development, and provided technical training to customers. He has since moved on from itek Energy and is now working as a project manager at Western Solar Inc, a solar installation company in Bellingham, WA. His work involves system design, operations and maintenance support, customer and technical support, product research, and community outreach efforts. He is a NABCEP Certified Technical Sales Professional and enjoys working on solar education projects in his community.

visit author page

author page

Sam Winters Itek Energy

Download Paper |

Abstract

This paper presents the results of an interdisciplinary, cross-institutional collaboration between a university, a technical college, and an industrial partner in which students and professional engineers work together on a hands-on undergraduate research project investigating the effectiveness of different power electronic technologies for commercial solar panel installations. The engineering research aspect of the project aims to compare and analyze the effects of string inverts, DC optimizers, and micro-inverters on solar panel power generation under various operating conditions with the goal of optimizing both energy production and system economics. The opportunities, challenges, and expectations involved in building a collaborative working partnership between the technical college, university, and local industry are presented. Furthermore, methods for creating a successful working relationship between undergraduate students bridging two different disciplines (clean energy and electrical engineering) are discussed. The motivation for this project stems from the pervasive expansion of renewable energy resources and development of new and innovative technologies allowing for increased efficiency, decreased development costs, improved reliability and overall system simplification. When installing solar panel systems, it is essential to determine the optimal inverter topology so that maximum power can be extracted. Outside of the solar panels themselves, the inverters are the most important constituent of the solar power system as they take the DC electrical power that the solar panels produce and converts it into AC power before injecting it onto the grid. The goal of this project is to compare the performance of solar panel arrays fitted with string inverters, DC power optimizers, and micro-inverters. Together students from both institutions spent twelve months studying, installing, and analyzing the various inverter technologies. The result of this work is mutually beneficial to all parties involved. The university students gain practical, hands-on experience setting up and installing solar panels in the field while the students from the technical college benefit through learning about the theory behind the operation of the power electronic circuits. The faculty develop working relationships with industry experts and visa versa. This partnership advances academic and technical knowledge of all participants. The data gathered from this study is an immense asset for the engineers from industry as it helps them improve solar panel design and better understand customer needs. This hands-on field experience not only stimulate students’ interest in learning both electronics and clean energy, but also help them recognize the importance and utility of interdisciplinary work. Moreover, the team-oriented nature of this project will foster students’ development of essential skills in team-work, communication, and time-management, serving them well into their professional careers.

Davishahl, J., & Jiang, X., & Dever, S. P., & Bear, L., & Christman, T. M., & Hickenbottom, D., & Winters, S. (2018, June), Board 34: A Cross-Institution Collaboration: Analysis of Power Electronic Technologies for Solar Panel Arrays Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30012

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015