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Solar Power Question


Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Jul 24, 2015
Clark Co, WA
I've been meaning to ask this question for weeks, but keep forgetting. There are some people who know quite a bit about solar arrays and solar conversion here.

Back when I was in college one of my professors got a National Science Foundation grant to develop a new inverter for solar arrays. This was the mid-1980s and I guess it was one of the few solar projects that survived the Reagan cuts on that sort of thing. He looked at the technology used at the time and realized that they were going about it the wrong way. He observed that you could model solar cells better as a current source than a voltage source and he was working on building an all new inverter based on that principle. He predicted that it would be far more efficient than the old way.

I graduated before the project was done and I never heard if this technology was adopted or not. So I was wondering if modern inverters used a current source approach.

I know most LED lights (as of a couple of years ago when I was looking at them) don't look at the LEDs as constant current devices instead of trying to bias the LEDs to a certain voltage. I made an LED task light with a constant current source and no resistors. It was insanely efficient and ran very cool, something like 8W for a 750 lumen light.

Engineers tend to get channeled into one way of thinking about things and miss novel approaches. I had the benefit of a couple of professors in college who challenged us to think outside the box.
MPPT (maximum power point tracking) in the inverter does indeed balance things so that the maximum power is achieved from a panel or string at any given time.
Check out the white papers that Solar Edge has for their inverters to see state of the art. They actually just announced a breakthrough on the inversions side (DC to AC conversion) that reduces the need for heavy magnetics, instead using high frequency digital processing.