editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Towards Smaller Solar Inverters

Inverters are getting smaller.

We’re talking here about the inverters used in solar cells to convert the DC that they generate into AC for the grid. But there seem to be a couple of different motivations for this reduction in inverter size; I was made aware of them by a two different product releases. Learn more about solar energy implementations for your home at solar Jindalee.

First came an SoC from Semitech. Semitech has primarily been focused on power-line communications (PLC) on the so-called Smart Grid. Their focus hasn’t so much been on residential settings, where broadband connections dominate, but rather longer-distance machine-to-machine narrowband connections. We’re talking hundreds of (electric) meters communicating over a few kilometers.

That said, they noticed an opportunity. Traditionally, a single inverter like the GoodWe inverter will serve multiple panels; this helps keep cost down (always an issue as solar struggles to compete with other forms of energy). But Semitech notes that there are some weaknesses with this arrangement. In particular, the one inverter becomes a single point of failure that can take all of its panels out of action. Efficiency also gets tuned to the needs of the worst (e.g., most shaded) panel – meaning that energy is wasted from the other panels.

The ideal would be a micro-inverter for each panel – something that’s generally been a cost challenge. So Semitech is trying to reduce that added cost by integrating the inverter electronics (not the transformers) into the PLC chip. So any inverter that was intended to communicate could get the inverter control circuitry almost for free (it’s a small add-on to the PLC circuitry, which dominates the chip).

By the way, apparently the same chip can be used for LED control if loaded with different software.

Meanwhile, ST Microelectronics announced a rather simpler product: an SiC diode. It replaces larger devices that have been needed in order to provide sufficient overcurrent margin. The new SiC diode can handle higher current spikes, contributing to a smaller inverter.

In this case, the small-inverter drive comes from a project driven by Google and IEEE called The Little Box Challenge. Here the idea is that smaller inverters will reduce the size of the cooler-sized box that’s currently needed for a residential solar installation. That makes it less of an eyesore, reduces the footprint, and – critically – reduces cost.

If you’re not part of the Challenge yet, it’s too late; registration is closed. The final prize will be announced next January.

That said, ST also seems heavily focused on the automotive market, saying that the new diode meets the requirements for such applications as on-board battery chargers for plug-in hybrids. It has a reverse breakdown of 650 V, and they boast zero recovery time.

You can find out more about these two products in the releases (Semitech and ST); you can find out more about the Little Box Challenge here.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Jan 21, 2022
Here are a few teasers for what you'll find in this week's round-up of CFD news and notes. How AI can be trained to identify more objects than are in its learning dataset. Will GPUs really... [[ Click on the title to access the full blog on the Cadence Community si...
Jan 20, 2022
High performance computing continues to expand & evolve; our team shares their 2022 HPC predictions including new HPC applications and processor architectures. The post The Future of High-Performance Computing (HPC): Key Predictions for 2022 appeared first on From Silico...
Jan 20, 2022
As Josh Wardle famously said about his creation: "It's not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs ... It's just a game that's fun.'...

featured video

AI SoC Chats: Understanding Compute Needs for AI SoCs

Sponsored by Synopsys

Will your next system require high performance AI? Learn what the latest systems are using for computation, including AI math, floating point and dot product hardware, and processor IP.

Click here for more information about DesignWare IP for Amazing AI

featured paper

MAX22005 Universal Analog Input Enables Flexible Industrial Control Systems

Sponsored by Analog Devices

This application note provides information to help system engineers develop extremely precise, highly configurable, multi-channel industrial analog input front-ends by utilizing the MAX22005.

Click here to read more

featured chalk talk

Why Measure C02 Indoor Air Quality?

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and Sensirion

The amount of carbon dioxide in the air can be a key indicator in indoor air quality and improving our indoor air quality can have a slew of benefits including increased energy efficiency, increased cognitive performance, and also the reduction of the risk for viral infection. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Bernd Zimmermann from Sensirion about the reasons for measuring carbon dioxide in our indoor spaces, what this kind of measurement looks like, and why Sensirion’s new SCD4 carbon dioxide sensors are breaking new ground in this arena. (edited)

Click here for more information about Sensirion SCD4x Miniaturized CO2 Sensors