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Improving Energy Transmission from Solar Cells to the Grid
Improving Energy Transmission from Solar Cells to the Grid


Clean Tech Challenge semifinalists Ben Hendrickson, Morley Blouke, and Josh Olesen want to eliminate the need for costly inverters that make it possible to move energy collected from the sun into the grid where it can be used by all.

There are a number of drawbacks to photovoltaic cell technology as it is today. One problem is that the energy captured by photovoltaic cells is not compatible with our electric grid design. To be integrated into the grid the electricity needs to be inverted from a direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC). This change is performed by a device called an inverter. 

Unfortunately, inverters are cost prohibitive, running from roughly $2,500 for a home system, up to $750,000 for a large-scale industrial operation. Clean Tech Challenge semifinalists Hendrickson, Blouke, and Olesen want to dramatically reduce the cost of inverting solar energy, reducing the overall costs of installing solar panels, thus making the technology more available to all.

Their solution is to use inexpensive microcontrollers and transistor switches to perform the inversion.

Using the grant they received as Clean Tech Challenge semifinalists, the team plans to build a working prototype capable of inverting DC to AC to provide power to a home appliance, thus proving their concept.

Authored by Shaun McGillis
Posted September 5, 2014