PLANT

Powering up for solar


May 27, 2010
by Joe Terrett

The SUNERGY inverter connects solar cells to the power grid for increased efficiency.

PHOTO: Sustainable Energy

Climate change is hot right now—pardon the word play—creating opportunities for innovative companies ready to tackle a growing global market for cleaner energy technologies.

Yet in some respects, Canada seems to be missing the bus on global climate-friendly trade, according to a March report by the Conference Board of Canada. World trade in clean tech grew 10% annually between 2002 and 2008, but Canadian exports haven’t done so, declares Global Climate-Friendly Trade: Canada’s Chance to Clean Up. In fact, taking inflation into account, exports have fallen. The report does note Canada has an advantage in several categories, one of them being photosensitive semiconductor devices (translation: solar cell technology). That’s an area—specifically photo voltaic (PV) technology—in which Sustainable Energy Technologies Ltd. is, ahem…shining.

The Calgary-based developer and manufacturer of power inverters for grid-connected solar PV systems is making global deals and expanding operations to Ontario where it expects to do some significant business under the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed In Program.

The company, formed about 12 years ago, has developed innovative and unique power inverters commercialized under its SUNERGY trademark (and part of the PARALEX line of solar generator products and systems) that increase the energy yield of individual solar modules.

The technology, based on nine US and Canadian patents (additional patents pending) was originally applied to inverters for attaching fuel cells to the power grid, says former president and CEO Ron Bucher (who recently resigned from the post for personal reasons).

“Basically we’ve changed solar cells so they can operate at a lower voltage, which is a unique technology in terms of efficiency because it has solved a lot of problems acquiring and harvesting solar energy,” says Bucher.

The inverters used with solar cell arrays on institutional and commercial rooftops or on the ground, handle rapid power fluctuations to maintain a continuous connection to the grid.

Solar efficiency
Sustainable Energy’s technology is based on parallel wiring rather than the more conventional serial wiring commonly used in the industry. Serial operates like a line of old Christmas tree lights. One light goes out, the whole line is down. In a parallel series of solar cells, if one malfunctions the rest continue to operate. Bucher says a parallel system increases efficiency by 5% to 15 per cent.