Shading has been a big challenge for solar system. Merely a 3 % of shading on solar array could lead to a 25% loss in output. Solar panels on residential rooftops that are partially shaded by clouds or trees sacrifice as much as 30% of their energy potential over a year. Group of graduate students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), U.S.A, has formed a startup called Unified Solar to solve this problem.
Current solutions for partially shaded solar panels optimize power at the panel level. But these bulky “boxes” rely on costly energy-storage components, such as capacitors and inductors. Failing to account for the strength or weakness of each individual PV cell, these also only restore roughly half of lost power. But Unified Solar innovates “at the cell level” by integrating entire power balance circuit onto a low-cost chip that can be integrated into a solar panel to regain that lost energy. The energy capture under partial shading is basically 2 times better compared to panel level solutions.
The team has received US$100,000 from U.S.A. Department of Energy on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clean Energy Prize, and US$125,000 from the NSTAR MIT Clean Energy Prize, to further develop their idea.