Sun saves fuel!

Smart integration of photovoltaics into fossil-fuelled power generation with SMA hybrid system technology

Photovoltaics efficiently complements electricity generators in sunny regions and reduces fuel consumption, thereby significantly reducing overall costs. Solar diesel hybrid systems can ensure a cost-efficient energy supply for locations with limited or no access to the energy grid, thanks to advanced innovations in photovoltaic technology and the exceptionally high quality standards of the global market leader, SMA.

First-Class Technology

Ensuring Profitable System Operation

SMA’s products and system solutions have a proven track record for quality, flexibility, safety, and reliability. SMA offers inverters that can be used in both centralized and decentralized system designs. SMA inverters regularly undergo demanding stress tests in our own research and development facility to ensure maximum yields even in the most difficult climate conditions.

"The technology for operating large, well-functioning solar diesel hybrid systems has been available for  almost 30 years. Today, however, we are in a position to offer considerably more intelligent, efficient, and cost-effective systems."

Volker Wachenfeld, Executive Vice President (Sales & Technology)

The Smart System Solution

SMA System Technology Minimizes Fuel Consumption

In the spotlight: the SMA Fuel Save Controller. The SMA Fuel Save Controller is the central component of the SMA solution for hybrid systems consisting of photovoltaics and fossil-fuelled gensets. It ensures the demand-oriented control of the photovoltaic system  dependent on the plant’s load and genset characteristics. Thus the gensets operate in a reliable and stable state even with high levels of photovoltaics.

Together with the SMA Fuel Save Controller, SMA inverters fulfil comprehensive grid management functions within the system. The  SMA hybrid system technology is scalable on a modular basis and can be adapted to the specific requirements of the power plant.

Furthermore, the Fuel Save Controller offers the opportunity to monitor the hybrid system remotely. This assures optimum energy management for the plant operator and guarantees efficient and flexible plant operation.

Storage batteries can also increase savings potential. Batteries make it possible to use a portion of the PV energy even when solar irradiation levels are low while also supplying a large proportion of the reserve capacity.  This lessens the wear and tear on generators thus further reducing maintenance costs.

Our Experience

We provide complete support for your project not only in planning, design and project management, but also service and maintenance. Customers benefit from our experience gained through having installed more than 25 gigawatts of PV power into operation.
 This first class experience demonstrates how SMA can be the  preferred supplier of hybrid system technology for large-scale plants.  Our  service packages are tailored precisely to your specific requirements and guarantee a high level of investment security. Whether it is system design, remote diagnosis, remote service or guaranteed replacement parts – with 85 customer service locations and 750 employees worldwide, SMA ensure your plant is delivering.

Pioneers in Hybrid System Solutions

Solar Energy Enters the Spotlight

Over 5,000 small and medium-sized off-grid hybrid energy supply systems around the world have benefited from SMA's expertise and products since the 1980s. These systems combine energy from various sources in an off-grid system, including photovoltaic, wind and hydroelectric power plants, batteries and electric generators running on diesel or biofuel.

SMA also supply the system technology expertise gained from these projects to solar diesel projects for large-scale industrial customers:

  • Industries that extract raw materials, e.g. mines
  • Industries that process raw materials, e.g. paper and steel
  • Water desalinization systems
  • Agricultural businesses, e.g. irrigation plants
  • Tourism facilities


South Africa: Hybrid Energy Supply for a Chrome Ore Mine

The SMA Fuel Save Solution – Minimizing Fuel Costs and CO2 emissions

Thabazimbi is a sparsely populated region in the South African province of Limpopo characterized by mines. The power distribution grid is far away, grid connection is limited, and transport of diesel fuel is expensive. With a high amount of solar irradiation, the region is ideally suited for the use of PV energy.

Since November 2012, a PV system with a power of one megawatt has complemented the existing diesel energy supply at a chrome ore mine.



Using up to 1.8 gigawatt hours of solar energy per year, the mine operator Cronimet Chrome Mining SA (Pty) can significantly reduce fuel costs and CO2 emissions.

The scalable PV system consists of PV modules, Sunny Tripower PV inverters, and an intelligent control unit, the SMA Fuel Save Controller. Solar and diesel generators are controlled depending on the load and generation profiles. The mine operator can thus minimize fuel dependency during the day.




Plant Size

  • Installed PV power: 1 MW
  • Nominal power of 63 x Sunny Tripower 17000TL: 1071 kVA
  • Nominal power of diesel generator: 2 x 800 kVA



Information on the Plant

  • Thabazimbi, Limpopo Province, South Africa
  • Coordinates: 24° 36′ S, 27° 23′ E
  • Operator: Cronimet Chrome Mining SA (Phy) Ltd.
  • Planning and realization: Solea AG, Solea Renewables (Pty) Ltd.



  • Date of commissioning: November 2012
  • Solar irradiation: 1.840 kWh/kWp
  • Fuel reduction: up to 450,000 L of diesel per year



PV System technology

  • Fuel Save Controller: 1 x Interface Module, 2 x Data Aquisition Module, 1 x PV Main Controller Module
  • 44 x Sunny Tripower 20000TLEE





India: Hybrid Energy Supply for a Cotton Mill

The SMA Fuel Save Solution - Minimizing Fuel Costs and CO2 emissions

Daily power outages lasting several hours are commonplace in India’s federal state Tamil Nadu. For this reason, cotton mill Alpine Knits located in Palladam, had been using diesel gensets to ensure a reliable power supply for their production site – and simply accepted the exorbitant operation expenses resulting from the fuel consumption of the gensets.

To reduce their energy bill, the cotton mill operators decided to install a PV system on the rooftop of their factory workshop – which started producing inexpensive energy in June 2013.



With the SMA Fuel Save Solution, the PV system and local diesel gensets are combined to work as a PV diesel hybrid system that operates reliably even when the grid fails.

As the intelligent interface between PV system and diesel gensets, the Fuel Save Controller ensures a highly available and efficient power supply. During peak production hours, the PV system provides approximately 60 percent of the total power demand of the mill – regardless of utility grid availability – a big step towards minimizing fuel costs and CO2 emissions.




System Size

  • Genset: 1250 kVA, Genset Powerica Limited
  • Installed PV power: 1 MWp
  • Modules: CanadianSolar CS6P-240P



System Information

  • Location: Palladam, India
  • Operator: Alpine Knits
  • Planning and implementation: Chemtrols Solar Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai
  • Commissioning: June 2013



Annual Yields

  • Solar irradiation: 1,562 kWh/kWp
  • Solar yield: 1,320 MWh



PV System Technology

  • 63 x Sunny Tripower 17000TL
  • Fuel Save Controller






Technically and economically optimized planning of photovoltaic diesel hybrid systems with Sunny Design.

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