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National Semi develops chip for 'smart' solar panel

Company develops chipset that fits into solar panel junction boxes in order to significantly boost output.

National Semiconductor is diversifying into solar with the release a chipset that optimizes the power output of solar panels.

Power optimization for solar panels. National Semiconductor

The company said Tuesday said that it is making its SolarMagic technology available as a chipset that can be integrated into the junction boxes of solar panels. Until now, the power optimizer hardware, first introduced a year ago, was available as an add-on product.

The chipset is designed to adjust the voltage and current from all the solar panels in an array so that they match, which increases the overall energy flow. The technology can also gather data on energy for each panel and report it via the Internet.

Differences in shading and mismatches in the flow of electricity can sap the overall efficiency of strings of solar cells and solar panels, which is leading companies to improve the power electronics of solar. Another company in this area is Israel-based SolarEdge, which also makes power management hardware.

Solar installer SunEdison, which caters to commercial and municipal customers, retrofitted the SolarMagic chipset onto an existing installation and found that it boosted the power output by over 20 percent.

National Semiconductor said that the first solar panels using the system, which costs 12 cents per watt, will be released at the Intersolar Europe conference next week in Munich, Germany.