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Home Location News Location New Solar Technology Promises Big Gains in Efficiency and Output

New Solar Technology Promises Big Gains in Efficiency and Output

- 2016-10-10 03:39:17

After years of incremental advances, a variety of innovations both simple and exotic are promising to boost the output of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems as much as 30% over current technologies—if the market can be convinced to adopt them.The Dawn of SiC For a generation, silicon has been the go-to material for semiconductor substrates. It's difficult to manufacture in the purity required and comes with a variety of limitations, but so far nothing else could match it for economics. That may finally be changing if GE has its way. At the Solar Power International (SPI) exhibition in Las Vegas September 13, GE announced that it was introducing a solar inverter using a silicon carbide–based chip. Silicon carbide (SiC), a ceramic compound composed of silicon and carbon, has been manufactured for industrial use for more than 100 years but is only just beginning to see use in electronics. SiC has significant advantages over crystalline silicon. SiC-based chips can operate at much higher temperatures and frequencies and are far more rugged—they can operate at twice the power density of a Si-based chip. This makes them ideal for high-power devices like inverters because they can convert power at higher efficiencies and lower losses, Keith Longtin, product breakout lab director for GE Global Research told POWER . “This allows us to switch up to 10 times faster, which gives us a much cleaner signal,” he said. The SiC inverter chip forms the core of GE's LV5+ Solar Inverter, also announced at SPI, which it estimates can deliver around $2.5 million more revenue over the life of a typical 100-MW solar plant GE has been working with the State University of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany to build a fabrication line for manufacturing SiC power devices. To scale up the technology and reduce fabrication costs, manufacturing must move from the current industry standard of 4-inch wafer production to 6-inch wafers. The Albany facility will be set up for 6-inch wafer production.