Solar panels tend to be like Christmas tree lights: If one panel stops working, the whole string is affected. But 3-year-old San Jose, Calif.-based startup eIQ Energy has a system that helps connect solar panels in parallel instead of in a series, and the innovation is starting to gain some traction. This week the company announced the first installation of its solar tech — at Big O Tires in Dublin, Calif. — and also according to a filing has now raised another $4 million in funding.
eIQ says its Parallux system can make solar systems both cheaper to install and more efficient. The system connects each individual panel to a high-voltage DC-to-DC power converter, which harvests the electricity from each panel and turns it into the ideal voltage for the inverter. The inverter (used for all solar systems to convert DC power to the AC power used by household appliances) then can convert the DC to AC power more efficiently and more reliably. CEO Oliver Janssen told us back in August that the architecture can maximize the power from each panel and boost the total energy harvested by 5-30 percent.
The company says the system also enables installers to connect far more panels – more than 100 in some cases, compared to the typical four or five – with a single cable, which reduces installation costs. And because Parallux harvests power off of individual panels, developers don’t have to match all the panels and can more easily replace panels, reducing the overall cost of design and installation of a project. Solar installers can also mix and match different types of panels.
Fittingly, eIQ’s first installation, at a 50 kW solar array at the Big O Tires, uses a combination of cadmium telluride (CdTe) panels from First Solar (s FSLR), amorphous silicon panels from Signet Solar, and crystalline silicon panels from CentroSolar. Thin film solar panels tend to get the best results from eIQ’s system because thin film panels have lower conversion efficiencies than crystalline panels.
eIQ, which targets new residential and small commercial projects (2 MW and smaller), came out of stealth nine months ago, but already raised $10 million in funding from NGEN Partners and Robert Bosch Venture Capital. This morning according to the filing eIQ has raised another $4 million from investors including NGEN Partners and Robert Bosch Venture Capital.
There are a number of other startups and large solar firms that are focusing on ways to better connect solar panels in parallel instead of in a series. National Semiconductor (s NSM) has developed a similar technology called SolarMagic, which optimizes the power of each panel individually and achieves similar effects. Solar inverter company Satcon also announced an energy management system, called Satcon Solstice, last year, which uses a DC-to-DC converter and enables different types of panels, including crystalline and thin-film panels, to work together well.
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Image courtesy of eIQ