You could lose power if this happens…
Hawaii leads the nation in rooftop solar penetration, with nearly one in nine customers, a total of about 51,000, tying their PV systems into the state’s island power grids. About three-fifths of those Hawaiian solar systems use microinverters from Enphase, the company that leads the market for DC-to-AC devices that sit at the solar panels themselves, rather than in one big box next to the power meter.
That adds up to more than 800,000 Enphase microinverters in Hawaii, each networked to the company’s cloud-based monitoring and control systems, ready to do things beyond simple solar-to-grid power conversion. This week, Enphase is unveiling the latest use of this installed capability: reprogramming its Hawaiian microinverter fleet en masse, to help Hawaiian Electric ride through solar-influenced disruptions on the edges of its power network.
Specifically, Enphase and Hawaiian Electric have reset the frequency and voltage ride-through settings of the microinverters, which govern how and when they trip offline when grid fluctuations arise. Standard settings for low-voltage ride-through (LVRT), however, can make the original disruption worse if it leads to a majority of the solar being supplied to a solar-heavy circuit to shut off all at once.
Enphase has expanded the range of circumstances under which its inverters will trip offline, as well as extending how long each inverter waits for disruptions to correct themselves before switching off, Enphase CEO Paul Nahi said in a Monday interview.
This is the kind of basic “smart inverter” functionality that Germany has already introduced for its solar-impacted grid. In the United States, Hawaii and California are the furthest along in putting together advanced inverter features to be included in new solar installations.