Interview: Smart PV 4All

Huawei’s new President of Huawei Smart PV Business Unit, Guoguang Chen, talks to PV Magazine about his new role in the company, and the future of his unit. Increased investment in smart PV R&D and technological innovation are top of the agenda. The intelligentization of energy products is also a priority, with much to be gained from the integration of ICT technologies and energy.

Huawei PV business has evolved from digital PV to Internet-powered PV, and now AI-powered PV. Through this journey, Huawei has long been committed to providing customers with an optimal LCOE with more value.Q: Mr.Chen, You recently took over as the new president of Huawei’s Smart PV Business Unit. How does your experience lend well to the new function?

Guoguang: I am a pioneer of Huawei’s smart PV business, having accumulated nearly 12 years’ experience in global research and development (R&D), and 7 years’ experience in international sales and management roles. This experience gives me a profound knowledge and understanding of both industry challenges and customer needs. My team and I work tirelessly to develop industry-leading products and solutions which provide the best possible value for customers all over the world.

Q: What new path do you plan to take the Smart PV Business Unit down?

Guoguang: The development of the smart PV business involves three aspects:

Firstly, we will continue to increase investment in smart PV R&D to ensure continuous creation of industry-leading products. In the future, both customer needs and technological innovation will become the main value creation sources. Secondly, we will expand Huawei smart PV’s global market presence, which involves establishing sales and service teams in more countries and regions to offer customers with better services. Finally, new ICT technologies, such as 5G, AI, and Cloud, have developed rapidly over the last two years. We will comprehensively integrate our leading ICT technologies with solar and storage to create more value for customers.

Our vision, which echoes the purpose of SMART PV 4ALL, is to expand the application of PV energy with innovative technologies, make Smart PV accessible to all , as well as contribute to building a world that is both green and safe.

Q: Leveraging the telecommunications business to solar is a clear advantage of Huawei’s capabilities in the market. Where is the company differentiating itself the most from other inverter manufacturers?

Guoguang: It is true that Huawei has competitive telecommunications technologies. It is a leading global provider of ICT infrastructure and smart devices, with extensive experience in the ICT field. It is the integration of ICT technologies and energy that differentiates Huawei from competitors in the energy field.

Huawei utilizes digital technologies to connect energy products, enable preventative maintenance, and realize the intelligentization of energy products, providing customers with a more reliable, green, and efficient energy system. The application of digital technologies to the energy industry enriches traditional dumb devices with intelligent capabilities, enhancing industry efficiency and delivering an optimized user experience.

The Network Energy Product Line, which is one of Huawei’s eight product lines, has recorded some of the fastest growth, covering fields such as data center facility, telecom energy, smart PV, and mPower. This product line currently includes 9 R&D centers, over 1200 patents, and more than 3000 R&D personnel. At least 15% of annual sales revenue from the product line is invested in R&D. Currently, Huawei Network Energy Product Line R&D centers have been established worldwide, including in Germany, Japan, Sweden, and cities of Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Xi’an.

To summarize, the Huawei smart PV business has advanced communications technologies and huge investment in R&D, and in the future, Huawei will continue to contribute to the ecological prosperity of the entire PV industry.

Q: With Huawei being such a large entity with many different business units, how are you bridging the Smart PV business unit with other technological arenas of the company?

Guoguang: We improve product competitiveness through continuous innovation as this ensures a leading position.

Every year, Huawei invests more than 10% of its revenue in R&D, with this figure reaching 15% over the last two years. In addition, over the last 10 years, R&D investment totaled CNY480 billion. Huawei has established more than 16 R&D centers and more than 60 basic technology laboratories worldwide, covering materials, heat dissipation, mathematics, and wireless technologies.

For example, 2012 Laboratories is a renowned Huawei laboratory that mainly focuses on the development of next-generation communications, chips, wireless, cloud computing, audio and video analysis, data mining, as well as machine learning technologies for the next 5 to 10 years.

It is Huawei’s “Noah’s Ark”, leading the way to the future. It also includes an energy-related laboratory called the Watt Laboratory, which created the 40 W super charging technology that is used in Huawei Mate series smartphones. The Watt Laboratory serves as the cradle of numerous technologies that are applied in our solar inverters, such as the AI-powered grid-tied technology and energy storage technology.

In addition, the 2012 Laboratories includes various other sub-laboratories named after world-renowned scientists or mathematicians, such as the Shannon Laboratory, which focuses on frontier research on key technologies and algorithms for the intelligentization of ICT technologies.

Further examples include the Gauss Laboratory, which aims to build an industry-leading database management system; the Shield Lab, which focuses on cyber security, device security, cloud virtualization security, and cryptographic algorithms; and the Turing Laboratory, which concentrates on research regarding AI technologies and applications.

As Huawei’s research base, 2012 Laboratories not only represents top-level research in China, but it also has considerable global influence. Without large-scale investment in terms of capital, talent, and time, Huawei would not have developed cutting-edge technologies and industry-leading products.

The powerful global R&D platform ensures the world-leading performance of Huawei solar inverters. Huawei applies new technologies and materials developed by company experts and doctors to new products, maintaining industrial competitiveness. This is Huawei’s unique advantage in the PV field.

Q: Huawei has recently predicted ten trends for smart PV development in the next five years, which has sparked heated discussion in the industry. How do you interpret these ten trends and their impact on the industry?

Guoguang: The 10 trends are Huawei’s prediction for the development of smart PV over the next five years. We mapped out these trends after holding an in-depth discussion with global industry experts, consulting firms, as well as upstream and downstream partners of the industry chain from four dimensions: digitalization and intelligentization, grid friendliness, lower LCOE, and security and trustworthiness. The 10 trends specifically involve: digitalization, AI-driven smart upgrades, unmanned PV plants, proactive support for power grids, solar + storage, virtual power plants (VPP), upgraded safety, higher power density, modular design, and security and trustworthiness.

I believe that the 10 trends predicted by Huawei, the global innovation leader, can guide the entire new energy industry by providing a reference for innovation and growth. However, the intelligent world is arriving faster than we anticipated. I think these trends will become realities well before 2025. Some trends are already occurring, such as solar + energy, AI-powered PV, and VPP.

The 10 trends are mainly related to intelligentization, digitalization, and cloudification, which are inevitable concepts in the industry. Today, an increasing number of innovations are driven by digital technologies. Therefore, we believe that 5G, Cloud, AI, and other technologies are key to innovation and are accelerating the digital transformation of various industries. More importantly, these technologies are integrating with each other and bringing unprecedented revolutionary changes. Everything will be connected online, everything will be connected to the Cloud, and AI applications will be ubiquitous, thereby reshaping everything we know today.

Therefore, in this innovation-driven ecosystem, success will only be achieved by game changers who propose new ideas, create new business models, and launch new products and services.

Seven years ago, we promoted the smart PV solution with string inverters as the core. Facing significant challenges, we achieved an unprecedented performance, which entailed both courage and modesty, by firmly believing that innovations bring success. Today, we stand at the entrance to the intelligent world, where we expect another turning point. We will closely collaborate with partners to achieve further success.

Q: Solar+storage is the new solution. How is Huawei adapting its business model accordingly?

Guoguang: In residential scenarios, the general LCOE of the solar + storage solution is more competitive than that of traditional power solutions due to the development and decreasing costs of PV and energy storage technologies. In areas with high feed-in tariffs, such as Germany, Japan, and Australia, the LCOE of solar + storage is even lower than the residential feed-in tariffs, allowing a new business model to be established. In the second half of this year, Huawei will launch the distributed household solar + storage solution to help people in these areas improve use of green and low-cost energy.

For commercial power plants, Huawei believes that the solar + storage solution will be mainly applied in the improvement of power grids. New energy is not completely stable in terms of power generation, and the stability issue will become more serious with the increasing application of new energy to power grids. For example, the power grid’s requirements for frequency modulation and peak adjustment will become more intense.

However, the solar + storage solution can address these problems, and it will be an inevitable trend of PV development in the future. Currently, markets are first being established in places where a stable power system is in more urgent need, such as Australia and the United States. In the future, with the development of global new energy, this requirement will become universal.

Huawei has extensive experience in lead-acid and lithium battery system application in the fields of telecom site energy, data center facility, and terminal power supply. It also has abundant technical experience in efficient energy storage system architecture, high-performance bare metal server (BMS), electrochemical cell system safety, and intelligent diagnosis and analysis.

Based on these platform technologies and experience in the PV field, Huawei is committed to building leading solar + storage solutions with optimal LCOE and levelized cost of storage (LCOS), optimal security, and simplified O&M, enabling our customers and partners to lead the smart PV era.

Q: Climate change is a growing global concern, and while the PV industry plays an active role in the energy transition, there are challenges surrounding manufacturing and waste processes. How is Huawei developing its products with environmental concerns in mind? Digitalization and the rapid expansion of ICT infrastructure consume significant amounts of energy – what is Huawei as a company doing to minimize energy resource consumption, and other environmental impacts?

Guoguang: As a world-leading ICT infrastructure and smart device provider, Huawei has been actively fulfilling its social responsibilities by reducing the power consumption of its products and cutting carbon emissions through continuous technological innovation.

The concept of energy conservation and emission reduction has long been an integrated part of the lifecycle of Huawei product R&D. For example, Huawei quantitatively evaluates the environmental impact of products in different phases, such as raw material extraction, production, transportation, use, and recycling, to identify product deficiency against environmental protection. In terms of innovation in environmental protection, the focus is on improving the energy and material efficiency of products.

Huawei also innovates in manufacturing processes, packaging, transportation, and recycling, in order to promote environmental protection across ICT product lifecycles.

For packaging, we adopt a lightweight, green packaging concept. We have also designed recyclable metal pallets to replace wooden ones, and we use strong paper boxes instead of wooden ones. This reduces wood usage and carbon emissions.

In the 5G era, increasing site power consumption poses unprecedented challenges to energy infrastructure construction. Huawei proposed the concept of “simple, intelligent, and green” 5G telecom energy construction and released the 5G Power solution to build green connections and computing through energy saving at three levels: component, site, and network.

Global data centers have high power consumption and PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness). Huawei continuously promotes AI technology to save energy and reduce power consumption in data centers. With efficient UPS and iCooling@AI technology, the overall PUE of data center energy is reduced from 1.5 to 1.1, maximizing the value of infrastructure.

In general, Huawei is committed to minimizing its environmental impact during production, operation, and the product and service lifecycles. Therefore, the company uses innovative products and solutions to help industries conserve energy and reduce emissions, while also contributing to a circular economy. Huawei is striving to collaborate with all industry partners to build a low-carbon society. This continuous innovation in green ICT technologies will enable green development across a wide range of industries and create a better fully connected, intelligent world for future generations.

Q: Where are you currently focusing R&D efforts within the Smart PV Business Unit? Are there any exciting innovations that the industry can expect to come out in the next year from this?

Guoguang: In general, there are three points as follows.

(1) For large-scale commercial ground PV plants, Huawei will further integrate new ICT technologies such as AI and 5G with PV to create more value for customers and embrace the era of grid parity. The AI BOOST SMART DC SYSTEM (SDS) system integrates bifacial PV modules, trackers, and smart PV controllers configured with multiple MPPTs to ensure optimal DC system performance. Based on neural networks, AI training and modeling enable trackers to be adjusted at an appropriate angle to ensure the highest energy yield of each PV string. AI Boost Smart I-V Curve Diagnosis 4.0 is an upgraded version that supports more application scenarios and delivers higher diagnosis efficiency. For example, the detection for a 100 MW PV plant takes only 10 minutes currently, 5 minutes faster than before. In addition, it is applicable to various scenarios such as shingled modules and mixed PV module installations. In terms of power grid friendliness, the Huawei smart solar inverters can ensure seamless and high-quality solar inverter power generation. Huawei innovatively applies an AI self-learning algorithm for impedance reshaping. This algorithm integrates multiple advanced algorithms, such as the adaptive algorithm for dynamic damping, and supports a minimum short circuit ratio (SCR) of 1.5, an industrial-leading figure.

(2) For distributed deployment, Huawei will continue to improve the rooftop smart PV solution and become the most comprehensive string solution provider in the industry. The arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) and Digital Turbo are powered by AI technologies to provide a safer and better user experience. For residential scenarios, the One-Fits-all 450 W optimizer will be launched. The optimizer can adapt to all 60-cell and 72-cell crystalline silicon PV modules in the market, and it can be configured as required. The single-phase and three-phase solar inverters both support DC coupling and are battery-ready, enabling storage capacity to be expanded as required. In industrial and commercial scenarios, the safety of the solar inverter and the whole PV system can both be guaranteed. With AI technologies, DC arcs within the lifecycle can be detected more accurately and quickly cut off.

(3) Software and algorithm R&D still focuses on fully enabling the PV field through AI BOOST, including improving power generation efficiency, O&M efficiency, and proactive safety, to support the increasing use of new energy in future power grids. Huawei will also build a smart PV ecosystem through software and Cloud platforms. This year, we have launched a new smart PV solution, which will reconstruct a secure and reliable open digital platform. The open data interface supports third-party ecosystem applications, enabling ecosystem partners and customers to conduct customized app development. As a result, digital dividends can be shared, creating more opportunities for customers. Thank you!