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W. Roth, R. Kiigele, A. Steinhiiser, W. Schulz, G. Hille

Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE
Oltmannsstr. 5, D-79100 Freiburg, Germany
Tel. +49 (0) 761/4588-227, Fax. +49 (0) 761/4588-217

Abstract sion, photovoltaic generators are being used increasingly of-

At Fraunhofer ISE, a photovoltaic/thermoelectric hybrid ten. Because of the seasonal fluctuations in solar radiation, an
system has been developed as a power supply for repeaters exclusively photovoltaic power supply leads to very large and
(e.g. mobile telephone repeaters) and integrated into a newly thus expensive systems in the temperate zones. In order to
constructed repeater station. A modified thermoelectric gen- avoid these disadvantages, the photovoltaic generator is usu-
erator from the Canadian Global Thermoelectric company has ally combined with other power generators.
been used as the auxiliary generator. A microprocessor- Within the research project on "Products with integrated
controlled energy management system (EMS) allows fully photovoltaic power supply", supported by the German Federal
automatic operation with minimal use of fossil fuels and ap- Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Technology
propriate battery operation management. (BMBF), potential auxiliary generators were investigated at
As the auxiliary power supply can support the PV genera- Fraunhofer ISE, and a photovoltaic hybrid system as a stand-
tor in supplying power to the load during periods with little alone power supply for repeaters in mobile telephone net-
sunlight, a very reliable power supply is achieved. Further, the works was designed and constructed (fig. 1).
dimensions of the PV generator and the battery capacity can
be reduced without affecting the supply reliability. In Central Potential auxiliary generators for small photovoltaic
Europe, for instance, the size of the PV generator can be re- hybrid systems
duced to a third of that needed for an exclusively PV system, In general, diesel generators are used today in larger pho-
if only 10 % of the annual demand is met by the auxiliary tovoltaic hybrid systems with an energy demand of around 10
generator. This allows a compact construction of the photo- kWhlday. For systems with a daily energy demand of a few
voltaic hybrid system and helps the numerous requirements on hundred Wh up to a few kWh, small combustion motors,
isolated telecommunicationsfacilities to be fulfilled. small fuel cells, thermoelectric generators (TEG), thermopho-
tovoltaic generators (TPV) or appropriate thermodynamic
Introduction converters such as small Stirling motors all come into ques-
Repeaters are digital radio signal amplifiers, which in- tion in principle. If adequate commercial availability is also
crease the connection reliability of mobile telephones within required, at present the choice is narrowed essentially to small
radio cells and raise the accessibility level throughout the combustion motors (diesel, petrol) with a coupled generator,
network. They receive the conversations, which have been and thermoelectric generators. High reliability, almost silent
converted to digital data, by radio, process them and transmit operation and simple remote starts all speak for the applica-
them on to a base station, also by radio. In rural areas and in tion of thermoelectric generators in small PV hybrid systems.
mountainous regions, repeaters often have to be installed and
operated at sites remote from the public electricity grid. The
power supply for repeaters should be reliable and free of
If a public electricity grid is not available to supply the re-
peaters, or if other reasons such as high connection costs, long
waiting times or the need for local flexibility speak for a grid-
independent supply, an autonomous electric power supply
system must be constructed. To date, such stand-alone power
supplies have mainly been based on fossil-fuelled motors
coupled to generators. Apart from the consumption of limited
fossil fuel reserves, the disadvantages of these systems include
the creation of noise and exhaust gases, the constant need to
obtain fuel and the high amount of maintenance, particularly
for continuous operation. For these reasons, and due to the
progress made in recent years on regenerative energy conver- Fig. 1: Repeater station with a photovoltaic generator.

0-7803-4057-4/97 $10.00 01997 JEEE 582 16th International Conferenceon Jhermoelectrics (1997)

Configuration of the photovoltaickhermoelectric hybrid The energy management system with state-of-charge
system determination
Computer simulations made at Fraunhofer ISE have The EMS is based on the electricity-saving micro-
shown that in Central Europe, the size of the PV generator can controller, H8/337 from Hitachi. It has a very low power con-
lbe reduced to a third of that needed for an exclusively PV sumption of less than 40 mW. The EMS is divided into a mi-
system, if only IO% of the annual demand is met by the auxil- cro-controller and a power unit (fig. 4). This means that it can
iary generator [I]. Further, the overall system reliability is be adapted flexibly to different power requirements. In addi-
higher for a hybrid system, as the redundancy means that if tion, it has a convenient operating system, with which the user
one energy supply breaks down, the load can be supplied can call up the system state onto the LC display with various
temporarily by the other alone. The following diagram (fig. 2) menus. The system can also be simply configured and
illustrates the basic configuration of a repeater station. parametrised via the user interface. The EMS is thus open for
The photovoltaic hybrid system consists of two solar gen- many customer-specific settings. Further, care was taken to
erator arrays of different size, with a total power of 1100 W. use standard components such as the 12C bus and to develop
The battery has a capacity of 480 Ah112 V. The typical power the software in the high-level language C.
drawn by a solar mobile telephone repeater is simulated by a
permanent load of 50 W in the experimental system.

energy management

Fig. 2: Basic configuration of the energy supply for a repeater Fig. 4: Micro-controller unit of the EMS.
The central decision quantity for the energy management
A modified thermoelectric generator from the Canadian is the state of charge of the battery. It is determined with an
company, Global Thermoelectric, model 5120 (120 W), is adaptive state-of-charge method developed at Fraunhofer ISE.
used as the auxiliary generator (fig. 3). This is based on a current balance, which is recalibrated when
A micro-controlled energy management system (EMS), the fully charged state of the battery is recognised. The recali-
newly developed at Fraunhofer ISE, ensures fully automatic bration is necessary, as errors in the current measurement and
operation with minimal consumption of fossil fuel and appro- balance can occur over longer periods and allow the value of
priate battery operation management. the state of charge to drift. During recalibration, the state of
charge is reset to 100% and the loss current for the battery is
recalculated. The fully charged state is recognised when first
the battery voltage exceeds the equilibrium voltage for a long
period, second the battery current is within the range of the
loss current and third the change of the battery current with
time is almost zero.
To control the battery, the EMS includes deep discharge
protection and a guard against overcharging, which is inde-
pendent of the state-of-charge determination. The solar gen-
erators can be controlled by the EMS in groups and sequen-
tially. The decision to switch the load or the TEG on or off
depends on the battery's state of charge.

Fig. 3: Thermoelectric generator.

583 16th international Conference on Thermoelectrics (1997)

Repeater station construction reducing the TEG as much as possible, here its annual cost
The housing of the repeater station was completely recon- share is 22%.
structed, to take account of the specific requirements on un- Battery investment as well as installation represent con-
manned telecommunications facilities, remote from the grid. siderable factors in the investment costs. A reduction of 50%
The repeater station is practically impregnable to burglars and for one of them would reduce the levellised electricity costs
vandals. Protection is achieved by use of a monolithic con- by 9%.
crete building component and installation of burglar-proof The reduction of the lifetime of the stationary industrial
doors. The solar modules are protected against theft by instal- batteries (reference: 8 years) will increase the levellised elec-
lation with a special substructure on a continuous concrete tricity costs appreciably. As the share of renewables is high in
slab (fig. 5). the total electricity production, two factors are of almost no
significance for the total costs: the fuel price and the TEG ef-
maintenance fuel
PV* 8.5 DM/W,
TEG 79.2 DM/W
Gasoline 1.1 DM/W
Battery 460 DMIkWh
EMS 1000 DM
Charge 1 DM/W
Maintenance 2% of the in-
vestment, at leas1
1 working day
LPG 2.11 DMkg in
1 DMikg refill-
ing storage tank
Gasoline 1.60 DM/I
Tab. I: Economic parameters of the hybrid system and its al-
tematives. *(+ 15% support structure)
The crucial financial parameter is the real interest rate:
doubling the rate from 4 to 8% means an increase in the lev-
ellised electricity costs of 22%.
In a second step the reference hybrid systems has been
Fig. 5: lntegration of the solar generator into the roof of the compared with all alternative power supplies. These are:
repeater station.
* an autonomous PV-battery system (0.77 kWp; 4.8 kWh
As the solar generator is tilted at 50°, dust, leaves and in stationary industrial battery) for tropical climatic condi-
particular snow can slide off the modules very easily. This en- tions
0 an autonomous PV-battery system (2.3 kWp; 12 kWh sta-
sures that the photovoltaic system will operate reliably in
winter also, without serious losses due to shading. tionary industrial battery) for temperate zones
0 one 120 W TEG generator

Economic viability of the photovoltaic/thermoelectric e one 120 W TEG with a 5.8 kWh battery
hybrid system * one 2 kVA gasoline generator
0 one 2 kVA gasoline generator with a 5.8 kWh battery
The economics of the photovoltaichhermoelectric hybrid
e one 2 kVA gasoline generator with a 5.8 kMrh battery and
system (770 Wpeaksolar generator; 5,8 kWh industrial battery;
120 W TEG; 50 W permanent output) has been analysed. The 750 Wp PV
0 one 3 BVA diesel generator
most important economic parameters are listed in table I:
In a first step, the sensitivity of the most cost relevant pa- The following figure 6 shows the cost comparison based on
rameters are calculated based on the annuity method. the annuity method with a 4% real interest rate. The pure
7.23 DMkWh in the reference case is within the range of fossil-fuelled generator systems (gasoline, diesel) have not
costs for autonomous power supplies. 23% of the annual costs been included in the figure due to their enormous O&M costs,
are related to staff for operation and maintenance (O&M). as the engines must be overhauled every 250 or 500 operation
Although TEG’s are very reliable, most of the annual costs are hours, respectively. These options are of relevance, if much
spent on O&M. The largest cost reduction can be achieved by more electricity is consumed.

584 16th international Conference on Thermoelectrics (1 997)

” T of the thermoelectric converter can be improved by using a
0 10 Location. Freiburg, Germany
large-area burner or a catalytic bumer [2].
3 9 Due to the flexible configuration of the construction and
$ 8
the custom-programmable control, the system can also be
2 7 maintenance used as the power supply for other facilities remote from the
$ 6
grid, such as environmental measurement stations, aviation
; 5
: 4
safety equipment and traffic guiding systems.
2 The economics of the demonstration plant has been in-
gp 23 vestigated in details.
-$ 1 A sensitivity analysis of all cost relevant parameters of the
0 reference hybrid system shows that the TEG size needs to be
rtand- reference TEG petrol-
alone PV- system system PV-
reduced as much as possible.
battery (TEG-PV- battery In a second step the reference system has been compared
system battery) system
with all relevant supply alternatives. The autonomous PV
Fig. 6: Cost comparison of the reference case with its supply battery system is always the cheapest solution for this small
alternatives in temperate zones. load, if the site is located in tropical areas, but not in temper-
ate zones. The fossil-fuelled generators (gasoline, diesel) are
An autonomous PV-battery system is more expensive in too expensive due to their enormous O&M costs.
temperate zones but the least cost option in tropical areas, as It is proved that the hybrid system designed and operated
both the PV generator and the battery can be dimensioned by the Fraunhofer ISE is cost competitive with pure TEG gen-
smaller. erator systems. Moreover, the hybrid system guarantees
The reference TEG-PV-battery hybrid system and a pure higher reliability and avoids 2.4 t of CO, annually. Last but
TEG system are the cheapest alternatives. Low interest rates, not least the use of PV means a positive and cheap public rela-
cheap batteries, a further cost reduction of PV or LPG prices tion effort for any telecommunication operator.
above 1 DMkg makes the reference system the least cost al-
ternative. Acknowledgement
Moreover, the hybrid system with TEG and PV guarantees The major part of this work was supported by the German
a lower loss-of-load probability and saves 2.4 t of CO2 annu- Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Tech-
ally. This means that the annual CO, avoidance costs are nology (BMBF).
47 DMA CO, which is cheap compared to other CO, reducing
technologies for grid connected power supply. References
In a third step the cost parameters of all system configu- [l] R. Kugele, W. Roth, W. Schulz, A. Steinhiiser, Thermoe-
rations listed above have been varied. The following con- lectric Generators in Photovoltaic Hybrid Systems, Pro-
clusions can be drawn: ceedings 15th International Conference on Thermoelec-
An autonomous PV,-battery system is always the cheapest trics ICT ‘96, Pasadena, California, USA, March 26.-
solution for this small load, if the site is located in tropical ar- 29.1996, Page 352-356
eas. Higher interest rates, typical for developing countries,
improves the cost competitiveness of low investment altema- [2] W. Roth, J. Schilz, A. Steinhiiser, Thermoelectric Genera-
tives. The operation in low income countries makes pure tors as Auxiliary Electricity Generators, Research Asso-
fossil-fuelled generator systems also attractive, if the regular ciation for Solar Energy, Proceedings Annual Conference
maintenance checks can be guaranteed. The cost reduction of ‘96, Kassel, Germany, September 04.-05.1996, Page 77-83
PV influences the ranking of all systems. If world market
prices drop below 4 DMIW,, autonomous PV-battery systems
are cheaper than pure TEG systems. TEG are considered as
very reliable, therefore they are the only fossil-fuelled alter-
native in this small power size.

Summary and outlook

The photovoltaic hybrid system presented is a very reliable
and economically attractive power supply for grid-
independent repeaters in mobile radio telephone networks.
Extensive investigations and measurements have shown
that there is still considerable potential for optimisation, par-
ticularly concerning the gas burner and the connection of the
thermoelectric modules to the heat source. For example, the
total efficiency value and, in particular, the exhaust emission

585 16th InternationalConference on Thermoelectrics (1997)