Using GaN semiconductors to accelerate microinverter operating frequencies can reduce system sizes and costs by up to 30%, dramatically spurring market adoption.
The cost competitiveness of solar energy compared to non-renewable energies has always been a barrier to large-scale adoption. However, some semiconductor analysts are upwardly revising their forecasts for power-semiconductor demand by the renewable energy market due to higher-than-expected demand for solar power in emerging countries, in particular, China.
Significant cost reductions have been achieved on solar panels, and electrical converters can be a second driver to increase efficiency in electrical generation and boost solar-power adoption.
High-power electrical systems are commonly used. These require the expertise of certified companies for installation and maintenance, which impacts the overall cost competitiveness of solar energy. With the development of power optimizers and microinverters, technology is evolving from high-power to lower-power converters for better efficiency, control, simplified installation and easier maintenance.
Microinverters are poised to become the next big step in solar power technology and market proliferation. Their panel-level electrical conversion enables the highest efficiency on solar farms, with panel-level performance monitoring and simplified maintenance. Lower power converters also will simplify installations for residential sites. Higher frequency converters, as enabled by GaN, can lead to significant cost reductions and, consequently, broader adoption of solar energy. Not only can GaN-based converters triple the operating frequency of today’s standard microinverters, but they also can reduce costs by more than 30%. In addition, the high operating temperature of GaN devices will help to reduce cooling-system requirements and costs.