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Integrated Solar Power Converters

University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder)
ARPA-E Award: 
Boulder, CO
Project Term: 
02/09/2012 to 08/31/2015
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Photovoltaic (PV) solar systems convert the sun's energy into electricity, but only a small percentage of the sunlight that reaches a PV system is converted into useful electricity. This is due in part to the inefficient and failure-prone electrical components used in most PV systems today. Improving the performance of these components would lower the overall cost of PV systems--helping to make renewable solar energy cost-competitive with conventional, nonrenewable forms of electricity generation.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
The University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder) is developing advanced power conversion components that can be integrated into individual solar panels to improve energy yields. The solar energy that is absorbed and collected by a solar panel is converted into useable energy for the grid through an electronic component called an inverter. Many large, conventional solar energy systems use one, central inverter to convert energy. CU-Boulder is integrating smaller, microconverters into individual solar panels to improve the efficiency of energy collection. The university's microconverters rely on electrical components that direct energy at high speeds and ensure that minimal energy is lost during the conversion process--improving the overall efficiency of the power conversion process. CU-Boulder is designing its power conversion devices for use on any type of solar panel.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, CU-Boulder would significantly improve the energy capture and power conversion processes in solar power systems--helping to improve their performance and reduce their operating costs.
Lowering the cost of PV systems would help increase the use of solar energy, which in turn would decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and improve U.S. energy security.
Solar energy systems create zero harmful emissions while providing energy to homes and businesses, so their widespread use would significantly improve air quality.
This project could help position the U.S. as a leader in the power electronics industry.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Michael Haney
Project Contact: 
Prof. Dragan Maksimovic
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Nuvotronics, LLC
Release Date: