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As momentum builds for making power grids smarter, so too is the need to harness and integrate more renewable energy sources on a large scale for utilities. One way in which that is happening at GE is by sharing the technological advances being made in two key renewable sources — wind and solar. As science blog Earth2Tech recently described the work: “Solar, like wind, is intermittent — power from the sun fluctuates when clouds pass overhead and wind doesn’t blow consistently. Now General Electric, which has been a major player in helping to integrate wind into the world’s power grids, wants to do the same for solar.” One way in which GE Energy is doing this is by taking the converter technology that plugs wind energy into the grid to make a “solar inverter” — basically a technology that takes the direct current generated by solar panels and converts it to alternating current used on the power grid.
As Earth2Tech explained: “To modify the inverter for solar, GE changed the way it connects to power projects, because solar panels generate direct current, which must be turned into the alternating current used by most appliances, whereas wind turbines generate alternating current… GE also modified the software to enable utilities to monitor and control the solar power plants. And the inverter had to be packaged with a new skin suitable for outdoor installations, as wind inverters are usually kept inside the towers, while solar inverters need to be able to survive the elements.”