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Suntech pushes for solar 'smart panels'

October 06, 2010 // Mark LaPedus

Suntech pushes for solar 'smart panels'

In a move to enable ''smart panels,'' Chinese solar cell giant Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. has struck deals with four companies: Azuray, Enphase, National Semiconductor and Tigo.

Azuray Technologies Inc. said it is collaborating with Suntech Power to explore ''smart panel'' solutions. The new ''smart panel'' technology will draw on Azuray's maximum power point tracking (MPPT) DC to DC technology, which is said to yield up to 25 percent greater solar energy harvest from panels affected by shading, mismatch or other real world conditions.

In another deal, Enphase Energy Inc., a supplier of microinverter systems, will partner with Suntech. The collaboration is designed to explore the integration of Enphase microinverters into Suntech panels to simplify and accelerate solar system installation and maximize energy output.

Enphase systems are said to offer a number of advantages over traditional inverter systems, including a five to 25 percent increase in energy harvest, improved system reliability and simpler and safer installation.

Meanwhile, National Semiconductor Corp. is collaborating with Suntech Power to develop "smart panel" technology, incorporating National Semiconductor's SolarMagic power optimizer chipset into Suntech solar panels to improve the power output of solar systems.

This announcement follows an announcement in May of 2009 in which the companies announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for Suntech to evaluate National Semiconductor's SolarMagic technology with the intention of jointly promoting the technology and developing future solutions.

National's SolarMagic power optimizer chipset enables each solar module to produce the maximum energy regardless of whether other panels in the array are under-performing due to environmental mismatch.

Not to be outdoen, Tigo Energy Inc. is collaborating with Suntech to develop ''smart panel'' technology for PV solar installations. As part of the collaboration, the companies are developing technology that integrates the Tigo Energy Maximizer Solution into Suntech's solar panels to increase energy production up to 20 percent. The Tigo Energy Maximizer solution is designed to integrate quickly into the junction boxes of today's solar panels.

The solution provides statistical conversion efficiency of 99.5 percent, thus not requiring the dissipation of excess heat. The Maximizer electronics do not require thermal re-engineering of the j-box or module. Contrast this to a 95 percent efficient micro-inverter that in normal operation has 10 Watts of power radiated as heat into the PV module.

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