With a power crisis looming, a grid tied inverter could help the country avert power shortage.
Last year, the Department of Science and Technology agreed to fund the proposal of the Electronics Industries Association of the Philippines, Inc (EIAPI) to build the Electronics Product Development Center, a facility that can be used for designing and testing electronic products, especially to meet international standards. Since it was already being set up, which took about a year, we were already being set up, which took about a year, we were already thinking of a product to develop that could be run through the EPDC.
The EPDC was critical in the commercialization of any serious product for the increasingly competitive local market, and indispensable for the international market, although there was always the option of doing tests in another country.
Some members has the growing interest in solar and renewable energy sources and members knew also of the growing local market demand for such products.
After much discussion among some EIAPI members, especially Mon of Innovatronix who was really pushing for power-related projects every time we had a meeting in the PCIEERD Technical Panel, we decided to propose to design a solar grid tied inverter for our members. They can later commercialize the inverter by doing the final product design, and, of course, they can market and sell it themselves.
We though that making our own design, if we can, will help us develop the local design industry by showing that these products can be designed here. Everyone already knew they can be assembled in the Philippines, but it seemed like no one, other than Emerson, has designed a high power local product such as this.
The grid tied inverter design involves a lot of hardware and software but we thought that the design scope is limited enough so we thought we can go into it.
Since the project will need funding from EIAPI, we were wondering how that could be possible since the organization itself is not well funded. So in the end, we decided that members in the project will lend equipment and services, including their employees, like an on-the-job training engagement.
Our association and members are not really that well-off financially, we only had plenty of hope and dreams. We ended up receiving used equipment such as worktables, used plastic chairs, used PC, a ladder that could reach a second floor roof needed to install solar panels, a four-channel oscilloscope – all used and some already aging but still serviceable.
After presentations to DOST, we found our that the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development was willing to fund the acquisition of test or laboratory equipment for the project.
Finally, we could already do real laboratory test for the project instead of doing the tests manually. Using automated test equipment will make the tests replicable and more easily meet international testing standards. We had been promoting the project to our friends in the semiconductor industry and so after months of waiting, Don-Don of Texas Instruments agreed to lend us their 600-watt reference design for a solar inverter. We wanted more designs to study so after a few more months, Tony of Infineon appeared to help out. Mario of Future Electronics remembered our project and he knew Tony from before, so they got connected.
From that time on, Infineon has a local representative. To our relief, they were more than willing to provide their designs and parts samples.
Having received the go-signal form DOST, I initially housed them in my office for several weeks until we got our unit from the Technology Resource Center Open Technology Business Incubator. With the reference designs on hand, the engineers were able to start their studies. We bought our initial tools and test instruments.
In about a month’s time we presentation the findings of our engineers Leo and Billy to project members Alex, Mon, Hilary, Marvin, and Ericsson. Based on our initial findings and discussions, we decided that we can actually aim to deliver a 2,000-watt and a 250-watt grid tied inverter instead of just the 2,000-watt size. So we hope to get two products from one project funding.
The micro-inverter had a special role since we will use it to upscale to the 2,000-watt version. At the same time, we felt that it will be easier to sell a small device initially to the local market. Even the renewables market was looking for a small inverter for the remote and provincial markets.
On our third month and with a their engineer Janel joining the group, we were well on our way to making an Infineon prototype. With the arrival of STMicro’s reference design from Bien and Mario, we will try to prototype a 2,000-watt grid tied inverter as well. And so orders were flying to our suppliers, and, of course, we were also requesting for free samples from our industry friends.
By November 2015, we hope that EIAPI designed grid tied inverter will pass the international standards needed for this product and which, in turn, may suggest our own standards for the Philippines.
We hope that by this date, we would have narrowed down the parts choices, brands, and even vendors so we can readily commercialize the inverters. Of course, we would also have made the design for printed circuit boards and the software that will run in the microprocessors.
Maybe one or two members would partner with semiconductor companies NXP and Texas Instruments who might be willing to provide the wireless connectivity for the product.
And we would have made more friends in the industry supporting the project outside of EIAPI, and even some companies wanting to join EIAPI.
Written by: Victor B. Gruet University of the Philippines Diliman Published by: Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII)