In this exclusive interview with pv magazine, Guoguang Chen, President of Smart PV & ESS Business at Huawei Digital Power, in this, discusses company strategy and recent announcements around FusionSolar, latest technology and product innovations in solar and storage, and more.

Could you introduce FusionSolar’s new three-pronged strategy that was launched during Intersolar and explain its impact?

Guoguang Chen: As a technology-driven company, our focus is on core technology and product solutions. Our strategy revolves around increasing our R&D capabilities, with core technologies including digital technologies, power electronics, solar technology, and battery technology. We have expanded our presence in full scenarios: utility, commercial & industrial, and residential, where these technologies play vital roles. Moving forward, our strategy converges on three defined scenarios for the next five years.

The first aspect of our strategy aims to bring our advanced solutions and technology to more places in the solar market. We want to create more value for our customers by integrating our 4T (Watt/Bit/Heat/Battery) technologies into various applications.

The second strategic announcement acknowledges the rapid growth of PV across utility, commercial, and residential sectors, accompanied by the adoption of batteries. We strongly believe that the future grid will be powered by renewable energy and supported by power electronics, from generation to distribution and consumption. To promote development and ensure high-quality standards, we recognize the need to collaborate with our industrial partners.

Lastly, we view PV as a business based on an ecosystem. Our booth at the event showcases how our partners have become significant players. We have established partner schematics encompassing industry partners, financial partners, service partners, solution partners, and more. Working together, we aim to further build and expand our ecosystem, fostering collective growth.

Can you provide more details about the new products launched for all scenarios?

Guoguang Chen: We have aligned our product offerings with the three defined scenarios. For utility applications, our most important solution is the Smart PV & ESS Generator. In countries with high renewable penetration like those utilizing PV and wind, grid instability becomes a concern. This solution addresses voltage, frequency, and power angle challenges, enhancing the future grid as conventional grid generation phases out. It’s the transition from grid-following, grid-supporting to grid-forming technology, enabling support and reinforcement of the grid with high proportion of renewable energy.

By integrating the Smart PV Inverters, Smart String ESS, Smart PCS with algorithm, the solution can accelerate PV to be the primary energy source as its wide application in future. With grid-forming technology, it is designed to support future up to 100% renewable energy penetration. This innovation is our most significant contribution to the utility sector.

We also cater to a wide range of industries and commercial applications. Our upgraded solution for commercial and industrial (C&I) applications includes the inverter + optimizer + ESS + charger + smart PV Management System Solution. This comprehensive solution is tailored to suit the diverse requirements of C&I applications.

In residential scenario, Huawei aims to lead the future by advancing the evolution of household energy through component innovation and technological upgrades. Through off-grid power backup, intelligent home energy scheduling by AI Energy Management Assistant (EMMA) and the future virtual power plant (VPP) interconnection will enable power independence and self-sufficiency for homes.

And just on optimizers, how are these being used?

Guoguang Chen: The use of optimizers is crucial in our approach. Rooftops vary in shape, angles, and shading. Our optimizers, equipped with the latest power electronics functionalities, enable full utilization of rooftops and ensure high yield for C&I applications. Safety features like rapid shutdown are integrated into our optimizers, making them a standard part of our solution.

Furthermore, our inverters offer arc protection, allowing for higher voltage and current handling. In ESS, our goal is to help individuals balance generation and consumption, particularly in regions where extended power outages are common. Smart PV+ESS solutions replace diesel generation in such areas. Additionally, EV chargers play a crucial role by offering complementary loads for C&I applications. The synergy between diversified generation and load necessitates intelligent load management systems.

For high consumption industries, deploying PV on rooftops alone might not suffice. To achieve 100% green power and safe consumption, it becomes necessary to tap into virtual power plants. Therefore, we provide a one-stop solution that includes BIPV (building-integrated PV) to utilize every possible surface for generation.

Moreover, we have upgraded our 1+4+X solution for homeowners, increasing the green power consumption rate to 100% even during power outages or when the grid is unavailable.

We expand beyond rooftop applications to wall installations and gardens, utilizing any sunlit space as a resource. Different PV technologies can be applied to generate more power, while home energy management systems control generation and consumption. Battery technology advancements, such as our new 7kWh battery pack, offer flexibility in charging, discharging, and power conversion systems (PCS). This ensures varying backup time spans, even in extreme cases like the 10-hour outages in South Africa. With technological advancements and increased battery capacity, homeowners can achieve 100% green power consumption.

Furthermore, this fundamental technology is applicable to both on-grid and off-grid scenarios. We observe PV’s significant impact on expanding off-grid applications. The largest microgrid project we are currently involved in is in Saudi Arabia, featuring a 400 MW PV system coupled with a 1.3 GWh battery energy storage system. This project, incorporating grid-forming technology, will provide power to one million homes and become the world’s largest microgrid. We consider this technology as fundamental in bringing PV to any location, regardless of grid connectivity.

You took responsibility for the European FusionSolar business early on, and subsequently, Huawei has made many breakthroughs in Europe. Could you share some stories from your time in Europe in those early days?

Guoguang Chen: I arrived in Europe in 2010 when Huawei had just initiated its PV endeavors. Our goal was to establish an R&D center in Europe, considering that Europe was at the forefront in terms of product development and technological advancements.

We aimed to bring new and improved products to the PV industry and recognized the global opportunities it presented. I personally traveled to various countries in Europe to determine the ideal location for our R&D center. After careful consideration, we decided to establish it in Nuremberg, which was known as the European center for power electronics.

Fortunately, we were able to recruit numerous power electronics experts to join our research center. This facility contributed significantly to key inverter technologies, particularly in the early generations. After three years of focusing on research, I transitioned from R&D to being responsible for the European market. I established the sales and marketing operations in Europe, which was a busy and challenging task.

We also emphasized the importance of partnerships. We sought partners who understood the technology and product, the enduring partnerships we built over more than 10 years have been instrumental in our growth in Europe. Building localized teams that understand the specific needs of each country has been crucial. We have worked closely with our partners and ensured they possess the necessary expertise to support local customers effectively. By combining superior products, strong partnerships, local support, and a passion for serving customers, we have achieved success in Europe.

The safety aspect has always been a focus in the industry. How does FusionSolar contribute to the health and quality development of the industry?

Guoguang Chen: Safety is a critical consideration across all scenarios. We recently published a White Paper in collaboration with TUV to enhance product safety and reliability. With the increase in PV module power, larger inverter power sizes, and doubled current, ensuring physical safety has become even more important.

In the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector, where PV is installed on rooftops, higher voltages increase the risk for people, and the potential for short-circuits can lead to fires and disasters. Therefore, continuous improvement in safety measures is essential. High-level arc detection and DC rapid shutdown should be defined within standards, made mandatory, and applied in all countries to ensure the safety of PV installations. Only when we can guarantee safety can the PV industry grow without limitations.

PV technology is evolving rapidly, with significant increases in module power and the emergence of decentralized PV within a short span of time. It is crucial to upgrade safety measures and address the challenges that arise while promoting health and quality development in the industry.

What is your perspective on the outlook for this year’s PV and storage market? How do you see global installation expectations and the future of combined solar-storage solutions?

Guoguang Chen: We anticipate significant growth in the PV and storage market this year. Last year, solar installations reached around 280-300 GW globally, and storage installations reached approximately 40 GWh. This year, we expect solar installations to increase by another 100 GW, reaching around 450 GW. We also anticipate storage installations to grow to about 60 GWh, a 50% increase from the previous year.

As more renewable energy sources are integrated into the grid, batteries are being deployed to provide grid support and stability. We have already seen successful deployments of storage systems alongside wind farms in the Netherlands, and we expect this trend to continue in more locations.

There is also potential for retrofitting older plants with storage, both large and small, to enhance grid stability and support. However, to achieve this, grid-forming technology is crucial. While we don’t see it becoming mandatory, we believe it is essential to work with distribution system operators (DSOs) to develop policies that support the deployment of grid-forming technology. This will enable the storage of more renewables and support countries achieve their carbon targets without the need for extensive grid reconstruction.

Is grid-forming technology sufficient to reach 100% renewables?

Guoguang Chen: Grid-forming technology is still evolving and will take time to reach maturity. We currently see its application in off-grid scenarios and major projects like the Red Sea project in Saudi Arabia. We expect to see its adoption in residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) sectors as well. However, utility-scale projects may face more challenges due to their scale and complex technological requirements. To achieve innovation and advancements in this area, we need to see large-scale projects taking more risks and being brave in implementing new technologies.

FusionSolar recently launched a new brand and slogan. Could you tell us more about it?

Guoguang Chen: We have been using the FusionSolar brand since around 2015. The name “FusionSolar” represents the convergence of solar PV and the idea that all energy sources originate from the sun. It aligns with our commitment to utilizing solar energy efficiently through quality and technological innovation.

As for our slogan, “Making the Most of Every Ray,” It resonated well with our vision and connected with people’s emotions. My idea was to go for a high-profile slogan, but a certain person in our group had, in the end, a better idea, which was to make a connection to people’s emotions.

From the beginning, we are thinking about utilizing everything from the sun through both technology and quality, and creating more value by innovating to convert solar energy in a highly efficient way.

Are there any bottlenecks or obstacles in the market?

Guoguang Chen: From our perspective, we don’t see any significant obstacles in the market. The PV industry has matured in terms of technology, and we have a clear roadmap for further improving efficiency and optimizing costs. While the industry has made significant progress, it has only penetrated deeply into around 30 countries. There are still more than 200 countries where the industry can thrive and drive economic growth. Grid-forming technology can address many challenges, supporting the transition to renewable energy in these countries. Overall, we see tremendous opportunities rather than obstacles.

What can we expect from Huawei in the future? How do you balance your vision with customer demands?

Guoguang Chen: At Huawei, we have a comprehensive product roadmap, and we have already unveiled new products during Intersolar week. For the utility sector, our focus is on grid-forming technology, which can play a crucial role in achieving a renewable energy mix of 60%.

In the commercial and industrial sector, we aim to enhance our products and provide a one-stop-shop solution, including hardware, software, and energy management solutions. Each industry has its unique requirements, and we strive to meet those demands through continuous improvement and innovation.

For the residential sector, our target is to offer complete solutions that enable consumers to achieve near 100% self-consumption. We have already implemented successful projects, such as one in Spain, where a combination of PV and battery systems achieved close to 100% self-consumption.

Overall, we balance our vision for the future with customer demands by closely listening to our customers’ needs and aligning our product development and innovation strategies accordingly.

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