Electronic Design

National’s Technology Hikes Solar Array Efficiency

Jumping into the photovoltaic market, National Semiconductor Corp. has created a new technology designed to increase the overall energy output of solar power systems under adverse conditions. The SolarMagic technology extracts the maximum power efficiency from each photovoltaic panel, even when some panels in the array are compromised by shading, debris, or inherent panel-to-panel mismatching.

For example, a small amount of shading in the array can cut the energy harvest of a system in half. This significantly limits the energy output, design, and location of typical residential solar installations. Shading can even invalidate local utility and governmental incentives, making certain installations cost-prohibitive. The SolarMagic technology recoups up to 50% of the lost energy, thereby minimizing the economic impact of shading and other real-world conditions. It is a per-panel electronics solution that maximizes power output of multi-panel installations and is compatible with today’s solar architectures regardless of the underlying solar cell technology.

REgrid Power, Inc., one of the largest solar installers in California, has begun system testing of the technology. Several additional solar companies are scheduled to join the field trials over the next several months, and National will expand field trials to include installers in other countries with high adoption rates of solar. Later this year, National plans to introduce SolarMagic products for solar installers and system providers to include in their installations.

“We are impressed with National’s SolarMagic technology in our field trials and have seen a significant performance improvement in our solar installation,” said Tom McCalmont, president and chief executive officer of REgrid Power Inc. and founder and executive chairman of SolarTech, a Silicon Valley consortium. “We have observed energy output improvements of up to 44% during shaded conditions and 12% overall versus the same system running without SolarMagic technology.”

National Semiconductor Corp

www.national.com

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