ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Making solar energy affordable, efficient

Future Energy Electronics Center

Read more at the Future Energy Electronics Center website.

Solar house

Jason Lai’s team at the Future Energy Electronics Center, is analyzing how power conditioning can make solar cells more efficient. The team has set up three different arrays of solar cells on a solar house built by Virginia Tech students 10 years ago for the Solar Decathlon. The team is analyzing data via three separate communication platforms: Pachube.com, Google PowerMeter, and EPRI.

One array measures a common configuration where all the panels are placed in for a centralized inverter. The other two arrays measure variants of the FEEC’s proposed topology: one uses an individual dc-dc converter for every two panels and links to the grid with a centralized inverter, while the other links every two panels into a separate micro-inverter. The study shows highest energy production with the micro-inverter approach, but cost-effectiveness must be studied. The project is part of a $4.2 million grant from the Department of Energy’s High Penetration Solar Deployment effort.