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August 13, 2012

Tying One (or Two, or More) On-NI Inverter Works with Multiple Energy Systems



Until now, to tie renewable energy systems into the grid, utilities have been limited to using power inverters that are designed to work with just one type of technology—whether it’s solar, wind, battery, or fuel cell. However, a single-technology design restricts what an inverter can do.

That problem has been addressed by the new National Instruments (News - Alert) (NI) Single-Board RIO General Purpose Inverter Controller (GPIC), in combination with NI’s powerful system design software, LabView (short for Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Engineering Workbench).

The new NI Single-Board RIO General Purpose Inverter Controller (GPIC) offers a next-generation embedded system design approach for the rapid deployment of advanced, field-reconfigurable digital energy conversion systems.

With the NI Single-Board RIO GPIC, grid-tied power electronic systems can be commercialized at significantly lower cost and risk. The FPGA-based system is designed to meet the cost, I/O (input/output), and performance needs of most high-volume commercial power electronics control applications—including DC-to-AC, AC-to-DC, DC-to-DC, and AC-to-AC converters for smart-grid flexible AC transmission systems (FACTS), renewable energy generation, energy storage, and variable speed drive applications. It is programmed using a comprehensive NI LabView graphical system design tool chain that includes simulation.

Among the benefits of the platform:

  • Save an average of 114 person-months per design and complete your development in half the time with a team that is 60 percent smaller
  •  Develop proprietary FPGA-based control algorithms without any knowledge of either Verilog orVHDL hardware description language (HDL), using LabView graphical programming and a high-fidelity power electronics circuit simulation environment
  • Gain the competitive advantage of using cutting-edge Xilinx’s (News - Alert) FPGA technology, which outperforms typical dual-core digital signal processors (DSPs) by a factor of 40 times per dollar, 24 times per chip, and ten times per watt
  • Add smart-grid network communication, power quality analysis, and local or cloud-based data logging using the onboard real-time VxWorks processor

The product–a result of ongoing investments by Austin, Texas-based NI in research and development—provides a standard set of analog and digital inputs/outputs (I/O) and 58 digital signal processing (DSP) cores embedded in the field-programmable gate array (FPGA) fabric, to meet the specific control, I/O performance and cost needs of most smart-grid power electronics applications.

"NI programming tools actually allow engineers to program the control strategy at the FPGA level, which is the clear path for the future," said Dr. Bill Kramer (News - Alert), acting R&D manager for Energy Systems Integration Technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "Imagine yourself being able to write multiple control strategies that run in parallel to create new power electronics designs than can be reconfigured at the hardware level after years of deployment on the grid."

Together, the NI Single-Board RIO GPIC and LabView graphical system design tools facilitate the rapid development, testing, and deployment of advanced FPGA-based power electronics control applications.



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Edited by Brooke Neuman


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