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San Diego Utility Wants Smart Inverters For Local Solar Arrays

San Diego Gas and Electric is hoping to urge new solar customers to add a piece of high-tech equipment to its systems.

San Diego's utility provider wants upgrades to make smaller solar power systems work better with the electricity grid.

Photo credit: Living Off Grid

The utility wants installers to use smart inverters, which change DC power from solar panels into AC power that can be used by plug-in appliances.

SDG&E President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Niggli said the tablet-sized devices are better at modulating power than existing converters. One key feature is the ability to be switched on remotely if there is a power interruption.

"Right now, if you have a system disturbance, they could be turned off and not turned back on," Niggli said. "We'd like to have the remote capability to turn them back on so that they can contribute back into the grid as soon as possible. Also, we can control through a remote signal the voltage level so that they integrate very smoothly with the grid."

Niggli said the units cost more but they go a long way toward making sure the grid works better.

California utility regulators are considering the impact of smart inverters and other smart grid technologies as more solar generating capacity comes on line. They could have some rules to consider early next year.

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