Solar moves out from the shadows

The quest to produce more efficient and versatile solar panels has been given a boost by a micro-inverter system developed by Enecsys, a Cambridge University spin-out.

Over the past two years, the group has developed a device that allows each solar panel within a series to produce its own AC current while reducing the cost of harvesting energy by 25 per cent.

A recent £2.5m investment from Good Energies is expected to see the commercial launch of the system in the next few months and the company is currently in talks with solar-panel manufacturers to integrate the device within existing designs.

“Solar is too complicated. It requires too much skill to install, to plan and put in, and is expensive”

Paul Engle, chief executive of Enecsys, said: ‘Solar is still way too complicated. It requires too much skill to install, to plan and put in, and is expensive. If you make each solar panel into essentially an AC power generator, then you demystify all that and lower overall costs.’

Current solar panels produce energy in a DC string, with their performance only as good as the weakest panel in the series. If a single solar panel falls into shadow, energy from the surrounding panels is unable to efficiently pass through to the single inverter, leading to significant energy losses.

‘The difficulty is not just about efficiency,’ added Engle. ‘It’s also about micro converters sitting outside the back of solar panels that have to last for 25 years in areas where the temperature can easily achieve 85°C.

‘Existing micro-converters are unable to work in those temperatures, but we think we’ve solved that with our technology. We will continue to develop and commercialise the system in the UK.’