Tuesday, July 8, 2008

National Semi Conjures Some Magic

National Semiconductor is the latest semiconductor company to enter the solar industry. It has done so in tantalizing fashion, teasing the industry with vague descriptions of a potentially game-changing product that can dramatically improve systems-level performances of solar installations.

The company announced the development of its proprietary SolarMagic technology, which it says on its website “recoups up to 50 percent of the lost energy, dramatically improving the economics in shaded and other real-world conditions.” SolarMagic optimizes solar panel performance particularly in instances of shade or blockage by debris. The company did not specify what form the technology would take other than that it is a “per panel electronic solution” and that is is “compatible with today's solar architectures regardless of the underlying solar cell technology.”

The very general product description is vaguely reminiscent of Enphase’s per-panel micro-inverters, which, coupled with their proprietary monitoring software, is able to maximize performance of a whole solar system by circumventing the “weakest link phenomenon.” Said National Semi on its website:

Today's systems are limited by the weakest link, and one or two compromised panels can take down the entire string or array. This is somewhat similar to a section of Christmas lights that go out when one light fails. However, with SolarMagic technology, if one panel in a solar installation is shaded, dirty, or otherwise compromised, that panel is allowed to produce what little energy it can while the other panels continue to operate at their full potential.

According to Greentech Media, the device is expected to add 10% to the cost of each panel. Expected to be available commercially in the first quarter of 2009, SolarMagic is currently undergoing pilot tests by California-based solar installer REgrid Power, Inc. According to REgrid Power, the SolarMagic technology has yielded performance improvements of up to 44% in shaded conditions and 12% overall versus systems running without SolarMagic.

the solar coaster is spellbound, and will keep tabs on further product announcements concerning SolarMagic.

1 comment:

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