Doe Science news source

The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2010-02-19 13:00:00
  • Article ID: 561393

New Method for Connecting Solar Panels May Increase Efficiency

  • Credit: B.A. Rupert, Missouri University of Science and Technology

    Jonathan Kimball, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T, is working to improve the efficiency of solar arrays by connecting solar panels in parallel, rather than in a series.

Andrew Careaga

acareaga@mst.edu

573-341-4328 - office

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ROLLA, Mo. – Solar arrays of the future may be more energy efficient and reliable, thanks to one researcher’s efforts to reconfigure the way panels are connected.

Dr. Jonathan Kimball, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, says the conventional method of connecting solar panels is in a series, one after the other. But just as one bad bulb in a string of Christmas lights can black out the entire set, so can a single solar panel disrupt the flow of electrical current through the other panels in a series, Kimball says.

“If one of the panels is shaded, dirty or damaged, it affects them all,” Kimball says. “The conventional approach to solar arrays inherently limits the amount of power they produce if there’s any variation in the panels.”

Rather than connecting solar panels in a series – where the electrical current must flow from one panel to get to the next – Kimball suggests parallel wiring for the panels. The parallel approach would connect each panel to its own power converter instead of sending the electrical current through a series of panels to a single converter.

Kimball is working on two different projects in this area. Through one project, funded by the U.S. Army’s Leonard Wood Institute, based in nearby Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., he is developing a system that could be used for a forward operating base. The other project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is focused on developing a system that could be used for residential power.

While Kimball’s research is focused on creating a more efficient system to get the most power from solar panels, he points out that cost is still a major factor preventing many people from investing in solar technology.

“Eventually, solar power has got to become cheap enough to compete with electricity generated from other sources,” he says.

A member of the Missouri S&T faculty since January 2008, Kimball co-founded a company, SmartSpark Energy Systems, in 2004 while he was a student and researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The company is developing a microinverter architecture to improve reliability of solar power. Kimball retains a small interest in the company, which is now known as SolarBridge Technologies and is based in Austin, Texas.

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Cold and Bubbly: The Sensory Qualities that Best Quench Thirst

New research from the Monell Center finds that oral perceptions of coldness and carbonation help to reduce thirst. The findings could guide sensory approaches to increase fluid intake in populations at risk for dehydration, including the elderly, soldiers, and athletes.

J.R. Macdonald Lab receives nearly $8 million DOE grant renewal

MANHATTAN -- A nearly $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is supporting the "bread and butter" physics research at Kansas State University's James R. Macdonald Laboratory. The grant is a three-year renewal award, "Structure and Dynamics of Atoms, Ions, Molecules and Surfaces." "This big operational grant is our bread-and-butter," said Itzik Ben-Itzhak, university distinguished professor of physics and director of the J.

University contributes art to the new downtown arena

A number of Sac State artworks are joining Jeff Koons' "Coloring Book" in exhibits at the new Golden 1 Center. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep) More photosSac State Professor Rachel Clarke and alumnus Bryan Valenzuela check out the installation of Valenzuela's "Multitudes Converge" glass sculpture at the Golden 1 Center.

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New Method for Reporting Solar Data

A straightforward new way to calculate, compile, and graphically present solar radiation measurements in a format that is accessible to decision makers and the general public has been developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and is described in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

Trapped Sunlight Cleans Water

High energy costs are one drawback of making clean water from waste effluents. According to an article in the journal Biomicrofluidics, a new system that combines two different technologies proposes to break down contaminants using the cheapest possible energy source, sunlight.

Report: Policies to Spur Renewable Energy Can Lower Energy Costs

The South could pay less for its electricity in 20 years than is currently projected if strong public policies are enacted to spur renewable energy production and use, according to a report released today by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University.


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Citi Grant Helps University Students Succeed

Citi Community Development, part of the Citi family of businesses, supports an innovative Academic Success Program at South Dakota State University. The program is designed to help students who have been re-admitted to SDSU following suspension due to low academic achievement.

Iowa State Engineer and Goodrich Partner to Develop Fuel Nozzles

Hui Hu, an Iowa State University associate professor of aerospace engineering, is working with engineers from the Goodrich Corp. to test and characterize the next generation of fuel nozzles.

CSB to Hold Public Hearing Tomorrow, December 15, as Part of the CSB Deepwater Horizon Investigation

CSB Board Will Hear Testimony on how Offshore Drilling is Managed and Regulated in Other Countries

Cornell Joins Team Taking Head-first Plunge Into Algae Biofuels

Cornell University researchers have joined other scientists and a biofuel research company on a mission to develop a commercial-scale algae-to-fuel facility by 2015. The effort is backed by a $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Engineering Researchers Partner With Toyota; DOE Grant Will Further Work Toward a More Efficient Charger for Hybrid-Electric Vehicles

A $3.9 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy will allow electrical engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas to continue contributing to the development of a compact and highly efficient silicon-carbide charger for hybrid electric vehicles. The benefits of the project extend beyond vehicles into other areas, such as wind and solar power, and could lead to reduced energy consumption in the United States.

Research Looks at Alternative Power for Military

South Dakota State University has a major role in a $10 million project to deliver alternative power technologies to help the U.S. military supply power to units in the field. The three-year project began in May 2009.

Mixing Blood and Oil: Conference Tackles Similar Challenges from Two Major Industries

Scientists and engineers from two of the nation's largest industries - medicine and energy - came together this week to explore the synergies in moving oil and pumping blood.

Time Ripe to Move Energy Storage Idea Off Drawing Board

Need has caught up with Case Western Reserve University researcher Gerhard Welsch's design for a self-healing, high-energy capacitor he patented a decade ago. ARPA-E has granted Welsch $2.25 million to start producing the small and lightweight device for hybrid and electric cars and more.

Registration Open for Sandia-Sponsored 4th International Conference on Integration of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources

Registration is open for the 4th International Conference on the Integration of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources, the premier event for technical discussion of electric integration of new energy resources.

Advanced Energy Conference To Illuminate Latest Technologies For 21st Century Clean Energy Economy

Leading Energy Organizations to Highlight Latest Job-Producing Energy Technologies at Nov. 8-9 Conference in N.Y.C.


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