Designing better microinverters for solar power systems

Solar panels on the roof of Day Hall. Credit: Lindsay France (UREL)

Firehiwot Gurara has been awarded a fellowship from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program for her proposal, "High-Efficiency Ultra-Compact Microinverters for Photovoltaic Systems." Gurara is pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering as a member of Associate Professor Khurram Afridi's High Frequency Power Electronics Group.

Gurara has been working on renewable energy solutions for most of her academic career, with a particular interest in solar energy. The goal of this latest project is to push the frontier on the power density of microinverters to enable greater integration and increase energy production.

"State-of-the-art commercial microinverters operate in the low hundreds of kHz, and hence have low power densities," Gurara explained. "High frequency operation can reduce energy storage requirements, enabling converter size and cost reduction."

Gurara is still finalizing the scope of the project but expects to devote the next three years to topics related to high-frequency power conversion for photovoltaic or wireless power transfer applications. Receiving the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is a powerful endorsement of Gurara's work, but she is quick to share credit with mentors and colleagues who have helped along the way.
"I would like to this opportunity to thank my community college advisor Professor Lucy Laufe and my mentor Wayne Cobb for their support throughout my undergraduate years," Gurara said. "I would also like to thank Professor Afridi for supporting me and giving me the opportunity to work in his lab since my last semester as undergraduate at Cornell. I would also like to thank Professor Amal El-Ghazaly, Dr. Sreyam Sinha and students from Cornell's Graduate Society of Women Engineers for their help. This was a team effort and not something I would take full credit for." 

The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend and a cost of education allowance to the institution.

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