Ensuring renewable energy systems are safe

IEC promotes the development of renewable sources for electricity production through standardization and certification

By Antoinette Price

Renewable Energy (RE) plays an increasingly important role in providing global populations with clean, affordable, sustainable energy. RE production and use continues to increase thanks to the falling cost of equipment and installation.

Solar PV farm
Solar panels convert sun rays into electricity (Photo: Siemens)

Testing already underway

Like any products and services, equipment used to produce renewable energy, such as solar panels, wind turbines or wave energy convertors, must be safely installed and maintained, as well as function reliably.

A number of IEC Technical Committees (TCs) produce International Standards for the technical performance and safety of renewable energy systems (see below). IECRE (IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications) provides a framework within which to test and certify that RE equipment and systems fulfil the requirements of these Standards.

Established in June 2014, the IECRE now has 15 Members. Its marine, solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy sectors have been working to put rules, processes and structures in place. Testing is underway and the first certificate for wind power is likely to be issued this year.

Awarding excellence

During the IEC GM in October 2015, Jonathan Colby, Chair of the Marine Energy Operational Management Committee (ME-OMC) and Convenor of the Renewable Energy Management Committee (REMC) WG001: Task Force and rules of procedure, now disbanded, received the *1906 Award in recognition of his commitment to Renewable Energy. As well as establishing marine energy International Standards, he was given the Award for his meticulous and enthusiastic leadership in key positions and dedication to IECRE work.

Colby is also Technical Advisor of the US Technical Advisory Group to IEC Technical Committee (TC) 114: Marine energy - Wave, tidal and other water current converters, where his involvement in the IEC began in 2008. He is currently Director of Technology Performance for Verdant Power, a tidal energy technology developer based in New York City.

*The 1906 Award is bestowed on technical experts around the world whose work is fundamental to the IEC.

A global player in RE standardization

IEC works with a number of global organizations who develop standards for RE. Towards the end of 2015, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) launched an online platform called INSPIRE, which offers users access to 400 RE standards and more than two million patents.

Users can find information about IEC Technical Committees involved in RE standardization, including: IEC TC 1: Terminology, IEC TC 4: Hydraulic turbines, IEC TC 57: Power systems management and associated information exchange, IEC TC 82: Solar photovoltaic energy systems, IEC TC 88: Wind energy generation systems, IEC TC 114: Marine energy – Wave, tidal and other water current converters and IEC TC 117: Solar Thermal Electric Plants, as well as the International Standards developed by these TCs. A number of other IEC publications, for example, White Papers are also available on the site.  

In addition to standards and patents, INSPIRE offers a wealth of information about standards, how they can be used, why they are important for quality assurance, investor confidence and technology training.

Participating in international events

Representatives from IECRE have begun participating in international events. During IRENA Innovation Week in May, Frank Ormel, Chair of WE-OMC (wind), presented at the session entitled Energy systems modelling and planning, where he talked about the IECRE system and highlighted some of its benefits.

“IECRE aims to offer a harmonized approach around the world, which ensures uniform implementation and mutual recognition between certification bodies and test labs.”

The System comprises national member bodies, experts from industry who make up the working groups as well as stakeholders, including certification bodies, test laboratories, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users, which broaden the scope of participating parties.

Ormel emphasized the fact that IEC recognized Certification Bodies and Test Laboratories themselves fulfil high-level requirements so as to be able to carry out the quality assessments. This is in line with the goal for IEC certified equipment and services to be widely accepted, for example, by local and national authorities.

Also speaking at the event, Vimal Mahendru, IEC Ambassador and Convenor of the IEC Systems Evaluation Group for low voltage direct current (LVDC) applications, distribution and safety for use in developed and developing economies (SEG 4), participated in the session entitled The future grid: electric highways.

LVDC also supports much technology used today, from electric vehicles, RE technology, kitchen appliances, lighting, transport, to smartphones and tablets. Systems with data and embedded electronics, such as the IoT, smart homes and smart cities run on it.

IEC SEG 4 is tasked with evaluating the status of standardization in the field of LVDC applications and products, as well as identifying new areas for standardization work. 

More information: www.iecre.org

Solar PV farm Solar panels convert sun rays into electricity (Photo: Siemens)
Ocean energy buoy Water movement produces energy
Wind turbines Wind turbines generate electricity