National power management chipset makes solar panels ‘smarter’

Santa Clara, Calif. — National Semiconductor Corp. has launched the solar industry’s first in-panel SolarMagic chipset that makes solar panels smarter, while marking the advent of a new category of solar systems — smart panels, said National.

Unlike current solar panels that are prone to performance issues due to age, mismatch and shade, smart panels incorporate advanced electronics to harvest the maximum energy from a solar system, said National. As an example, 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, according to the company.

The SM3320 SolarMagic smart panel chipset is the most recent addition to National’s SolarMagic product line that is said to provide junction box and module manufacturers with the highest efficiency and return on investment for solar system owners. It also provides solar system owners a high-performance solution at the lowest cost per kilowatt-hour, said National

The 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.

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 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, the SM3320 incorporates ten 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, said National.

The SM3320 includes a highly integrated, 99.5 percent efficient, 350-watt 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 meets UL and CE component-level certification.

The board-level system, measuring 5 inches x 3.5 inches x 0.5 inches 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.

National and its partners plan to demonstrate the SolarMagic smart panels at Intersolar Europe in Munich, Germany, June 9-11, 2010, in Hall B5, Booth #429.

Availability: Volume production.
Pricing: The 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 12 cents per watt, depending on volume.