A team of MIT researchers have successfully used an integrated chip to restore lost power to partially shaded solar panels. This application doubles solar PV technology’s ability to capture energy.
Solar panels struggle with the well known issue of shading. Shading occurs when an installation happens to be too close to a tree casting a shadow that blocks the panels from sunlight exposure. It may also occur on a cloudy day–as clouds pass by; they cause shading on different sections of solar panels–which leads to a dip in energy output.
This shading issue affects the system’s energy potential by as much as 30% over a year.
“In the real world, shade happens,” said Bessma Aljarbou, a graduate student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “Shade brings energy loss, reliability concerns, and a constrained market. And we have a solution.”
This team’s technology integrates an entire power balance circuit onto a low-cost chip that can be integrated into a solar panel to regain that lost energy.
“No one has ever thought of using the solar cell as an energy storage itself, and that’s what we’re effectively doing,” added team member Albert Chan, a graduate student in MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations program.
“At the panel level, we can recover twice as much energy under partial shading conditions, at a fraction of existing costs,” added Arthur Chang, an MIT PhD student in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) who invented the technology.
Read More about this team’s achievements: MIT team wins Clean Energy Prize for solving solar’s shade problem