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Smart solar panels incorporate advanced electronics

Smart solar panels incorporate advanced electronics

National Semiconductor Corp. announces an in-panel SolarMagic chipset, marking the introduction of what the company calls “smart panels.” Whereas traditional solar panels are prone to underperform due to conditions such as age, mismatch, and shade, smart panels incorporate advanced electronics to harvest the maximum energy from a solar system.

The SM3320 SolarMagic smart panel chipset is the most recent addition to the company's SolarMagic product line and provides junction box and module manufacturers with the “smarts” to ensure the highest efficiency and return on investment for solar system owners. By coupling more energy production with a lower balance of systems cost, the SM3320 provides solar system owners a high-performance solution at the lowest cost per kilowatt-hour.

National’s SM3320 is the first analog-intensive power management chipset in a new category of in-panel electronics that improves power output, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of solar systems, according to company sources. SolarMagic can recoup up to 71% of power lost to mismatch – regardless of cell technology – giving installation owners more predictable power output and increased return on investment.

Launched in May 2009, National’s original SolarMagic power optimizer was a standalone system, which can be attached to existing or new solar installations. Now, National is also embedding SolarMagic power optimizer benefits as a chipset directly into junction boxes, which already reside on all solar panels. Packaged as a complete board-level system or available as a chipset, National’s SM3320 incorporates 10 proprietary analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits, providing highly reliable digital control combined with analog sensing and communication.

Proprietary algorithms apply localized 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 maximize energy flow. The SM3320 system senses input voltage and current throughout the array and adjusts to achieve optimum string levels.

The SM3320 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 is released to market with UL and CE component-level certification and is in volume production.

The board-level system, measuring 5 x 3.5 x 0.5 in. and weighing approximately 6.4 oz., easily fits into a solar panel junction box. It is now being integrated into junction box and module-level partners with their product releases starting at Intersolar Europe and continuing through the rest of the year.

For more information, contact National Semiconductor Corp., 3689 Kifer Road, Santa Clara, CA 95051. Phone: (800) 272-9959.

TAGS: Solar
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