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Smart Solar Rooftops

Low Profile Power Conversion System for Rooftop Photovoltaic Power Systems

University of Colorado

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Technology Marketing Summary

Solar panels, or photovoltaic panels, use photovoltaic cells to create energy. These cells create direct current through absorption of sunlight's photons by silicon, allowing electrons to be stripped from atoms. The direct current is then inverted and either stored in a battery or immediately used for energy. The current silicon-based solar cells have a limiting efficiency of about 30% for a variety of reasons. Current cells can only absorb a portion of the light the sun produces, and are inefficient due to heat loss throughout the rest of the process. Silicon is also expensive to produce, and requires protection from the elements. Photovoltaic technologies are competing with fossil fuels on the energy market, so producing high-efficiency while maintaining a low cost is a major priority for the solar industry.


A research team lead by Robert Erickson at the University of Colorado at Boulder has developed a new type of photovoltaic converter. The conversion technology boosts the voltage produced using a simple design that is tolerant of shading, allowing for low-cost production combined with a high-efficiency module. The technology can be used in a photovoltaic module-mounted or shingle-integrated system to produce electricity. When integrated into such a system, this technology has the potential to produce electricity at a price and efficiency that can compete with fossil fuels.

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Application 20130062958
Low Profile Power Conversion System for Rooftop Photovoltaic Power Systems
The disclosed embodiments and principles provide a way to integrate high-efficiency, low-profile power electronics with localized maximum power point tracking (MPPT) into a rooftop shingle-based photovoltaic power system. DC-DC power converters having a height, or profile, as low as 1/4 inch for a 200 W power output, are able to be included in a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roof shingle. The DC-DC power converters increase the relatively low voltage produced by two rows of series-connected photovoltaic shingles, each including photovoltaic cells, to a high voltage used by a DC-AC inverter. For example, DC-DC power converter increases the voltage produced by two rows of series-connected photovoltaic shingles from several tens of volts to approximately 400 volts. Thus, the DC-DC power converters provide a large voltage step-up using a low profile and with very high efficiency.
Technology Status
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To: Lola Underwood<>