Image via: SolarMagic
On Tuesday, I wrote an article about how the PV system supply chain is going to explode over the next few years, bringing with it new jobs and new services. Hot on the heels of that article is a new device created to boot your PV system's output by 10-40%. Smart thinking, National Semiconductor.For homeowners with less than ideal roofs - maybe your pitch is wrong or those panels had to be put on an east-facing roof, or maybe that tree that was once a sapling is now a towering pine - you may be forced to purchase fewer panels because some will be shaded. Even on a perfect system, over time things change and your system will lose performance. This is why National Semiconductor took existing technology, tweaked it a little bit, and voila, developed a product that helps current and future customers make the most of their solar performance with what they call SolarMagic.
What is SolarMagic?
SolarMagic was created in the labs at National Semiconductor as a way to maximize energy output for your system. Essentially these little boxes do the same thing as microinverters except that these do not do the DC/AC conversion function and are easy to retrofit into older, existing systems that have shade or other issues. Microinverters on the other hand require redesign and rewiring of the system. Not to get too technical, but whereby a typical solar array is connected in a series of strings and then works in parallel when its get to the inverter, if any portion of this string is shaded, the whole string loses power exponentially, not proportionally. This means major losses if you have even a small bit of shading on one panel. SolarMagic optimizers ensure that each panel is counted individually so one bad panel can't take down an entire string. This is perfect for areas that might have one string with partial shading or for areas that get intermittent shading from clouds on a regular basis. You only put the SolarMagic products on strings that you know will have shade. In addition, you will also need to purchase one diode per string to ensure that no energy is allowed to go back along the line, as energy will be fluctuating due to the SolarMagic optimizers.
National Semiconductor is even claiming that this allows engineers to design systems with different string sizes, panel wattages and orientation because SolarMagic will make up for the changes in voltage. By optimizing performance, roofs and areas that would typically be considered less than desirable can now be considered for installation because SolarMagic will make up for the losses, in theory. This gives engineers and system designers more flexibility.
Each SolarMagic box has a blue, flashing LED so you know when the box is performing correctly. The trick is to mount it on the rail so that you can see the LED without having to take each panel off to check it. Just like all the other parts of your system, this power booster has a 20 year warranty but costs way less than any of the other parts going into your system. The system can be installed on both commercial and residential applications.
Looks like this could be the start of a new solar business. While current customers can get SolarMagic systems on their new installations, existing customers could also call up a company and have them come out and give their system a turboboost. For a fee, a small crew could come out, turn off the system, add these maximizers and turn the system back on with virtually only a one day loss in production.
National Semiconductor makes power management technologies including energy efficient technologies and now SolarMagic power maximizing systems. Each SolarMagic optimizer retails for USD$199 and are available on the market now from solar distributors.:SolarMagic
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