SolarMagic, Solar Magic

[Munich, Germany]

SolarMagic Power Optimizer repositioned as a solution for Mismatch.
SolarMagic Wins Intersolar 2009 Award
How does this device work?

From National’s SolarMagic at Intersolar 2009

On the same day as its 50th anniversary, National Semiconductor Corporation (NYSE:NSM) announced “National Semiconductor Launches SolarMagic Power Optimizers in Europe, North America” and held an Intersolar 2009 press event hosted by Chairman and CEO Brian L. Halla and the SolarMagic executive team.

Mismatch supplanted Shade Happens as the key problem SolarMagic helps to solve. Beyond SolarMagic’s ability to recover disproportional power losses due to shade, addressing the problems and constraints of mismatched modules “that has plagued the industry since its inception” represents an even greater opportunity.

SolarMagic enables varying string lengths, module mixing, and different module plane orientations all while maximizing each module’s power yield. Module binning at the factory and repeated in the field add to PV system installation cost.

SolarMagic power optimizers need to be fitted to each module in a string along with one SolarMagic blocking diode, but SolarMagic does not have to be on every string in a particular Photovoltaic (PV) installation. Field trials are underway at most module makers including Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE:STP) per “National Semiconductor and Suntech Collaborate on SolarMagic Technology for PV Systems.”

National claims SolarMagic has 98.5% typical efficiency with an MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) of 455 years “and still growing” justifying their 20 year warranty. A SolarMagic Specification Sheet is available but has not yet been posted to the SolarMagic website. Below is a captured Picasa photo of the back page parameters and specifications. Thus far, National has not disclosed a FIT (Failure In Time) rate as SolarEdge CEO Guy Sella did at the PV Industry Forum here on Tuesday.

From National’s SolarMagic at Intersolar 2009

SolarMagic is compatible with existing inverters whether or not central MPPT is enabled. National recommended switching off the inverter MPPT in a SolarMagic equipped PV array and using a fixed input voltage. This boosts inverter efficiency while SolarMagic protects the inverter from overvoltage situations at the same time.

Mr. Halla said:

We are in discussions with a couple of the major inverter companies to actually optimize the inverter for use with SolarMagic and taking out the corresponding cost that is overlapping.

As I posted (tweeted?) a few weeks ago, SolarMagic is priced with an MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) of US$199 (150) with immediate availability via distributors and installers in Europe and North America.

As Christoph Hammerschmidt wrote in “NatSemi’s SolarMagic wins Intersolar award” for EETimes:

While National Semiconductor CEO Brian Halla, who presented the product at the press here, did not explain much of the technical principles, he said he sees it as a great step for the company towards a greener future. The trade fair organizer saw it the same way and awarded its Intersolar technology award to the company.

Not explaining much about how SolarMagic works is sheer understatement.

Q:How does this device work?

A1:If the panel is underperforming because of debris or mismatch or for any reason, it will readjust the current in the entire string and set the voltages accordingly so that the string is optimized for the rest of the strings in the array.

A2:We essentially individually compensate for every V and I, voltage and current, profile that each panel wants and then decouple that completely from the summation of those voltages at the output of the SolarMagic which is what the string is all about. So the series string optimization is done on the output side for the SolarMagic and panel optimization is done on the other side. Two separate optimizations take place.

Q:I had a nice Black Box in my hand, but what is inside, how does it work.

A:That’s the Magic part.

I noticed the same SolarMagic sample passed around to the press was marked Engineering Sample. I guess the unit was not refreshed with a production unit?

I asked Mr. Halla and the National executives a more pointed how it works question after the event, but they again declined to get into specifics.

Earlier, Mr. Halla shared a photovoltaics and electronics history lesson about a forgotten engineer named Russell Ohl. Mr. Ohl discovered the P-N junction and filed for a photovoltaic patent (US Patent 2,402,662 ” LIGHT-SENSITIVE ELECTRIC DEVICE”) 58 years ago on May 27, 1941. Halla said:

This guy was a pretty cool dude; it’s too bad he was forgotten.

From National’s SolarMagic at Intersolar 2009

The above trio walked the halls in slow, deliberate unison as part of a BP Solar publicity stunt. Does BP still do solar?


  1. Jo says:

    Most likely it works like a DC-DC power supply with MPPT adjustment at the input. If different then it is a scam.

    To me it is very bad marketing not to disclose how it works and call it “magic”.

  2. Richard says:

    Yes, Jo.
    I notice the blocking diode product has ‘99.8 % efficiency’ with a 0.7 volt voltage drop.

    If you put this diode in a 240watt 24V system, then it may have 10amps going through it.
    It will waste 0.7 volts x 10amps = 7 Watts. 3% of the power.
    I don’t know where they get a value of 99.8% Most of the time in most systems it is must less efficient than this.
    Which leads me to believe the other efficiency figures may be rubbery.

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