National Semi Acquires Act Solar

March 19, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

National Semiconductor Corp. announced that it has acquired Act Solar, Inc. a privately held solar energy company that provides power optimization solutions for commercial and utility-scale solar installations. With the acquisition of Act Solar, National states that it is expanding its portfolio of power optimization technologies along with the acquisition of new diagnostics and panel monitoring capabilities for solar arrays.

"National Semiconductor is applying its ’PowerWise’ capabilities to drive new energy generation and efficiency initiatives in the solar panel marketplace," said Mike Polacek, Senior Vice President of National’s Key Market Segments. "Now with Act Solar we can further improve the performance and efficiency of solar systems, at the same time providing monitoring capabilities not available before. This will make solar installations more efficient and ultimately reduces the cost of solar energy for everyone."

National’s SolarMagic™ technology is said to enhance the efficiency and output of solar arrays when the panels are affected by mismatch issues including shade, debris, different panel types, and panel aging. Panel mismatch can disproportionately impact the output of a solar installation. For example, an entire solar array’s energy output can be reduced by half if just 10% of one solar panel is shaded by a tree, chimney or rooftop vent. National claims that recent internal testing showed that its SolarMagic power optimizers recovered 57% of power lost due to shade, thereby enhancing the solar installation’s output and efficiency. SolarMagic power optimizers begin shipping this spring.

Act Solar now becomes part of the SolarMagic family. Its products are said to improve array performance by 6 to 11% using patent-pending technology, complementing central inverters by dynamically re-circulating small amounts of energy as needed. The balance of the array is maintained, assuring maximum power output. The technology utilizes what is described as a revolutionary technique for power tracking, which works by injecting energy into the string as opposed to traditional dc-dc voltage converting approaches. It is claimed that early field tests and historical modeling have shown that this solution can cumulatively deliver 40 to 80% more power over the operating life of a solar panel installation.