While most solar panels today are prone to underperform due to conditions such as age, mismatch, and shade, smart panels incorporate electronics to harvest the maximum energy from a solar system. To that end, National Semiconductor claims to offer the first in-panel chipset for use in smart solar panels.
The SM3320 SolarMagic chipset provides junction-box and module manufacturers with higher efficiency and return-on-investment for solar system owners by coupling more energy production with a lower balance of systems cost. In particular, the analogue-intensive, power-management chipset improves power output and reliability.
SolarMagic technology looks to solve those real-world problems that lead to mismatch in solar systems, significantly reducing the power output of an array. According to NSC, it can recoup up to 71% of power lost to mismatch regardless of cell technology.
Packaged as a complete board-level system or available as a chipset, the SM3320 incorporates 10 proprietary analogue and mixed-signal ICs, providing digital-control combined with analogue sensing and communication. Proprietary algorithms apply localised maximum power point tracking (MPPT), extracting the maximum energy available by translating the input voltage and current to the best output voltage and current pair to maximise energy flow. The SM3320 is cognitive, meaning that the system senses input voltage and current throughout the array and adjusts to achieve optimum string levels.
The chipset also includes a highly integrated, 99.5% efficient, 350-W tri-mode power converter. To achieve maximum energy harvest, the SM3320 can either boost, pass-through, or lower the voltage of each panel. Options include fire safety panel shut-off and a set of sophisticated safety mechanisms. The SM3320, released to market with UL and CE component-level certification, is in volume production.