National Semiconductor boosts the voltage on SolarMagic Hype.
SolarMagic Specification Sheet not released either.
When I was surfing over at RenewableEnergyWorld.com earlier this week, I noticed a Leaderboard ad for SolarMagic from National Semiconductor Corporation (NYSE:NSM). Unable to resist, I clicked it and was led to the new SolarMagic website (http://www.solarmagic.com). Clicking on the News & Events tab, I found the upcoming Road Show for Installers & Dealers and sent an email requesting to attend the Santa Clara event as press.
Perhaps banned is an exaggeration?
After a bit of a to do as the National PR folks passed the buck to public relations firm Antenna Group, the response was: “This isn’t a media event.” Well, I didn’t think so, that’s why I was interested in attending! In reply to my question: “Are any Media attending?” the claim was: “No, no media will be attending this event.” I will reserve judgment on whether this last statement is true based on my past interaction or lack thereof with National Semiconductor Corporate PR.
Consistent with National acquires Act Solar for headlining PowerString, the SolarMagic Technology Overview doesn’t discuss the technology. I find it incredible to have so much collateral at the SolarMagic website without having anything about how the technology works. The one nugget was:
All SolarMagic power optimizers come with a limited 20-year warranty, ensuring the reliability of the panel-mounted electronics matches the panels themselves.
Of course, there was no data to justify this warranty term.
On the Products page, I found another ingredient to the magic. A Blocking Diode is required for each string with SolarMagic Power Optimizers (as they are now called, SMPO for short?) installed. Here is a National Semiconductor photo and the quoted text:
The blocking diode is designed to block reverse current flow by allowing current to flow in one direction and [Blocking Diode] disconnect the circuit if current attempts to flow in the opposite direction. Due to the interaction, strings with SolarMagic power optimizers installed – also referred to as assisted strings – will have varying voltage levels during energy production hours. A single blocking diode must be installed in each assisted string to protect the SolarMagic power optimizers from damage.
All SolarMagic blocking diodes come with a full 5-year warranty.
It would appear the Blocking Diodes will need to be replaced over the course of a Photovoltaic (PV) system’s operating life adding to maintenance and downtime.
After completing the online form at the bottom of the Products page once to request the SolarMagic Specification Sheet, I got the following email reply twice the next day:
Subject: Regarding Your SolarMagic Feedback
Thank you very much for your interest in SolarMagic.
The SolarMagic Optimizers are not publically available at this time, however, we will be announcing the release soon. Over the next few weeks, please refer to www.solarmagic.com for availability and exciting updates about our new technology. We do value your feedback but response to our technology announcement has been overwhelming and we are working our way through the inquiries on a first come first served basis. We will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible.
At the AEE Solar website, I found this National_Semi-Q1-2009-AEE-Solar-Conference.pdf presentation from the 2nd Annual AEE Solar Dealers Conference in Mesa, Arizona, February 2009. Alas, there is precious little new here. Other interesting PV presentations are available at AEE Solar Supplier Presentations including one from EnPhase Energy on their micro-inverters.
I have been searching for a National Semiconductor patent related to SolarMagic to no avail so far. While National may have done their best to hide the related patents or patent applications, could it just be there is nothing new here? Is SolarMagic just a derivative PowerWise technology or based on existing PowerWise chips? Is that why National appears so worried a low level warlock at the competition can cast the same SolarMagic spell?
I’ve been told SolarMagic will be launched on May 27, 2009, at Intersolar 2009 in Munich, Germany. I predict the SolarMagic technology puzzle will have been cracked before then.
If you have information burdens regarding SolarMagic you would like to share, please send me an email. All sources are treated as confidential by default unless you elect to opt-in and be cited.