Renewable energy sources—solar and wind in particular—are hot right now, with a lot of talented engineers trying to make them mainstream energy sources for a wide range of applications. Economics aside, this is more easily said than done, for both large-scale projects and small-scale applications.
For residential and commercial installations, solar and wind power sources are highly complementary, since each is primarily available when the other isn’t. However, integrating these two intermittent power sources into a reliable source of energy requires some sophisticated power electronics: maximum power point trackers (MPPT), microinverters, DC-DC converters, and specialized power management techniques—and that's before you even consider connecting to the grid.
If you’re planning a stand-alone solar system, say for your cabin in the mountains, you have some serious system-level design ahead of you, starting with calculating the supply of and demand for energy as well as how much storage capacity you’ll need to compensate for imbalances between the two; in many cases, the cost of storage will constitute a significant percentage of your total system cost. If, on the other hand, you’d prefer to put your excess capacity back into the power grid to be drawn against later, you’re taking on some additional technical and regulatory challenges.
Also, on Thursday, November 10 EE Times is presenting a virtual event, Power Solutions: Smart Energy Technologies and Techniques, that is directly on point. One of the panels—Power Electronics and Alternative Energy—will address the issues we’ve raised here. The panel takes place from 2:00-3:00 PM EST and includes experts from Power Integrations, Microsemi, Cymbet, and Powercast. I’ll be asking them some leading questions, and you’re welcome to submit some of your own. This is a chance to ‘grill the gurus’ in real time.
Earlier on Thursday there’s a panel that addresses the use of alternative energy sources on the micro level, Energy Harvesting and Micropower Sources (11:15 AM – 12:15 PM EST). Ultra-low-power wireless sensor networks must work for years on tiny batteries, supplemented by local ambient power sources such as light, heat, vibration, RF, and more. This panel will explain how to harness, store, utilize, and manage the small amounts of power available from these alternative energy sources. Here’s your chance to learn from and directly question energy harvesting experts from Texas Instruments, Microchip, Linear Technology, and Digi-Key.
If you’ve read this far you’re definitely the person for whom this event was intended. I hope you’ll join us on Thursday for a lively and informative series of sessions. Please click here to learn more and to register.
These two crash courses are greatly helpful in providing baseline awareness to the beginners like me on this topic. A few days back I was planning to check options to install a solar system to charge the inverter battery in our house. This came to my notice at the right time :) Thanks!
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.