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Lightweight PV Inverters

Ideal Power
ARPA-E Award: 
Austin, TX
Project Term: 
01/30/2012 to 05/29/2015
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Graphic of IPC's technology
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: 

PV inverters convert DC power generated by modules into usable AC power. Ideal Power's initial 30kW 94lb PV inverter reduces the weight of comparable 30kW PV inverters by 90%--reducing the cost of materials, manufacturing, shipping, and installation. With ARPA-E support, new bi-directional silicon power switches will be developed, commercialized, and utilized in Ideal Power's next-generation PV inverter. With these components, Ideal Power will produce 100kW inverters that weight less than 100lb., reducing the weight of conventional 3,000lb. 100kW inverters by more than 95%. The new power switches will cut IPC's $/W manufacturing cost in half, as well as further reduce indirect shipping and installation costs.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Ideal Power would reduce the weight of PV system components by 95%--significantly reducing the cost to manufacture, ship, and install PV systems.


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: 
Dr. Paul Bundschuh
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Release Date: