New Industry Products

National Semi Introduces SolarMagic Chipset for Solar Panels

May 31, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

National Semiconductor Corp. introduced what the company describes as the solar industry’s first in-panel SolarMagic™ chipset, which is said to mark the advent of a new category of solar systems: "smart panels."

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 what the company says is 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.

"By introducing the first in-panel smart electronics to the solar market, we are keeping with a five decades long tradition of developing the category-defining products that shape an industry," said Mike Polacek, Senior Vice President of National’s Key Market Segments Group. "National Semiconductor has been embedded in the solar industry since its inception. Already, our power management electronics are used in nearly two-thirds of the inverter and junction box market and we currently have more than 100 MW 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 states that 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. SolarMagic can recoup up to 71% of power lost to mismatch – regardless of cell technology – giving installation owners more predictable power output and increased return on investment.

Launched into the market 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 also 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, National’s 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. The SM3320 is cognitive: the system senses input voltage and current throughout the array and adjusts to achieve optimum string levels.

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 by 3.5 by 0.5" 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 12 cents per watt, depending on volume.