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Power management IC enables 'smart' solar panels

Thu, 06/03/2010 - 9:40pm
I-Micronews

The SM3320 SolarMagic smart panel chipset is the most recent addition to National'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 Semiconductor has been embedded in the solar industry since its inception," said Mike Polacek, senior VP of National's key market segments group. "Already, our power management electronics are used in nearly two-thirds of the inverter and junction box market and we currently have more than 100MW of solar systems under SolarMagic monitoring and management. The development of smart panels builds on what National does best–smart power management electronics–to enable higher efficiency, more robust solar systems."

National's SM3320 improves power output, reliability and cost-effectiveness of solar systems. SolarMagic provides an innovative solution to long standing problems with solar arrays and their design. Real-world problems lead to mismatch in solar systems, significantly reducing the power output of an array. SolarMagic can recoup up to 71 percent of power lost to mismatch–regardless of cell technology–giving installation owners more predictable power output and increased return on investment.

Packaged as a complete board-level system or available as a chipset, National's SM3320 incorporates ten proprietary analog and mixed-signal ICs, providing highly reliable digital-control combined with analog sensing and communication. Proprietary algorithms apply localized maximum power point tracking, 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 is cognitive: the system senses input voltage and current throughout the array and adjusts to achieve optimum string levels.

In addition, the SM3320 includes a highly integrated, 99.5% efficient, 350W 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-inch x 3.5-inch x 0.5-inch and weighing approximately 6.4 ounces, easily fits into a solar panel junction box. It is currently 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.

Pricing for National's SM3320-1A1 board-level system and SM3320-REF chipset is based on the solar industry standard measure of dollar-per-watt. National's SM3320 is available now and is priced at less than $0.12 per watt, depending on volume.

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