Over the last few years, there has been a marked increase in the number of installations made in desert environments. This is due to the fact that deserts offer vast tracts of land at relatively cheap prices and with a large number of sun hours, making it possible to reduce the cost of solar energy. At the same time, the market-led reduction in PV system costs has led to the use of outdoor solutions that dispense with external housings to protect the inverters and other equipment at the transformer substations (transformers, medium voltage cells, etc.). Therefore, there is a need to guarantee the correct operation of this equipment in these extreme operating conditions yet with no performance losses.
Ingeteam's two main PV inverters have both been certified to the IEC 60068-2-68 international standard by an external laboratory. This standard establishes the conditions to be met by electronic equipment in order to effectively operate in environments with high concentrations of dust and sand.
The certificate was obtained for Ingeteam's central inverter which is part of the INGECON SUN PowerMax B series and also for its very latest 100 kW string inverter, which is part of the INGECON SUN 3Play family. In both cases, the tests conducted demonstrated that the ingress of particles inside the equipment was residual and did not affect the normal inverter operation or performance.
Roberto González, the director of the Solar PV R&D department at Ingeteam, highlighted "the importance of this certification by an independent, external laboratory, which effectively demonstrates the company's ability to guarantee the correct operation of its equipment even under the most demanding and adverse conditions”.
In order to conduct the sand and dust tests based on the IEC 60068-2-68 international standard, Ingeteam acquired a climatic chamber for sand and dust tests, certified under the international standard UNE-EN 60068-2-68: 1997. This sealed chamber is able to create a controlled atmosphere with the humidity, wind velocity and sand concentration conditions required by the standard. For this purpose, the chamber is equipped with two particle blowers that continuously blow sand against the inverter and create an atmosphere with a specific concentration of sand and dust in suspension. Furthermore, the sand used is of similar characteristics to that found in a desert, with regard to grain size (between 0.14 and 0.59 millimetres) and composition, with a predominance of quartz, olivine and feldspar, as it is specified in the regulation.
This sand chamber, capable of testing equipment of the dimensions of a central PV inverter, was used to verify the correct operation of the inverters, as well as the efficiency of its "sand trap" system to prevent the ingress of particles into the B series central inverter, while collecting the grains of sand and facilitating their subsequent removal. Moreover, the new inverters feature a system that completely seals the ventilation circuit, for maximum protection against the ingress of particles, which could cause serious technical problems in converters installed in the desert. Therefore, as well as the tests specified in the certification procedure, Ingeteam also subjected its equipment to even more extreme conditions, such as those characteristic of a desert sandstorm, clearly demonstrating that its outdoor equipment is able to withstand situations with a high concentration of particles in the air (100 g/m3) and high wind speed (160 km/h).
Thanks to this achievement, Ingeteam has strengthened the company's position as a power converter manufacturer specialising in the provision of technical solutions for plants located in hostile environments.