The next big thing for data centers: DC power

Although we live in an AC-dominated world, DC seems poised for a comeback, particularly in data centers. Facebook adopted a DC architecture in its Prineville, Ore., data center. SAP spent $128,000 retrofitting a datacenter at its offices in Palo Alto, Calif., to rely on DC power.

ArrayPower: Solar panels meet distributed conversion

ArrayPower, which has raised $22 million in venture capital, has engineered a way to to convert solar power by using a new, distributed approach to turn direct current from solar cells into alternating current for feeding the grid.

Using radio waves for more efficient solar power

Using radio waves to efficiently convert solar power — that’s the idea behind startup Array Converter, which spoke for one of the first times this week at the AlwaysOn GoingGreen conference in San Francisco.

Today in Cleantech

A lot of the focus of the Intersolar solar power trade show in San Francisco this week is on the “balance of systems” of solar PV installations — everything but the panels, that is. Of that share, the biggest additional costs come in the inverter systems, which change panel direct current (DC) into grid-ready alternating current (AC), and there’s certainly plenty to talk about on the inverter front at this year’s show. Of course, one of the biggest debates in the industry — central inverters vs. microinverters — continues to get a lot of attention, and this week’s show has its share of announcements on both the central inverters (SOLO, Ingeteam,)  and microinverter (SolarBridge, Enecsys) fronts. But there are also some new inverter designs that break new ground in terms of efficiency and cost. One of them is Ideal Power Converters, an Austin, Texas-based startup that says it can shrink the size, weight and cost of inverters by about 90 percent with a design that foregoes transformers and eliminates electrolytic capacitors, among other features. Then there’s Tigo Energy, which says its DC power optimization units can better solve many of the panel-specific problems microinverters are aimed at solving. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other Intersolar news on the BOS front — feel free to tell me what you’re seeing as well.

Enphase Energy IPO: By the numbers

Enphase Energy, which makes small distributed microinverters for solar panels, filed an S-1 yesterday for a $100 million IPO. Here’s the breakdown of how much Enphase is earning, spending, and shipping, and who will win out in the public debut.

Solar Monitoring Startup Fat Spaniel Sold!

Inverter maker Power-One has bought venture-backed Fat Spaniel Technologies, adding to a list of renewable energy acquisitions this year. The deal is necessary for Fat Spaniel which has endured a tough market.

GE Puts Wind Converter to Work for Solar

GE 600 kW InverterAs utilities start to build large solar projects and solar power makes up an increasingly larger portion of the electricity mix, integrating this energy into the grid will be a challenge. Solar, like wind, is intermittent — power from the sun fluctuates when clouds pass overhead and wind doesn’t blow consistently. Now General Electric (s GE), which has been a major player in helping to integrate wind into the world’s power grids, wants to do the same for solar.

The company has turned a 1.5 MW wind converter into a new, 600 kW solar inverter for utility projects, Rick Robertson, an inverter program manager at GE, told us at this week’s Solar Power International. The inverter, pictured above, is targeted at multimegawatt solar projects with multiple installations on a single site, he said. GE is now taking orders for the inverter, which was introduced at the conference, and plans to ship its first units by the end of this year, he added.

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Navigaya: The Strangest Browser

ScreenshotThere are a lot of browsers out there beyond the few that most people code for. The most recent one I’ve run into is Navigaya, which might better be described as a Flash-based browser experience for those addicted to sensory assault. When you visit the Navigaya site (use full-screen for hte best experience), it starts playing music videos from a customizable playlist as wallpaper. In front of that, you can run a search (and see results from multiple engines at one) or browse the web.

While all that’s going on, you can explore the various menus and shortcuts that Navigaya has to chunks of web. These are customizable with your own links too, but the starting set is a good portal to many common sites, categorized into areas like “maps” or “fashion”. Their Category menu gives you browsable news from many sources at once, with headlines and videos as well. All in all, it’s a surprisingly engaging way to explore the web, though I don’t know that I’d try to use it when I wanted to get serious work done.

Xantrex’s Inverters Are on the Block

Shares of power electronics maker Xantrex closed up 19 percent Wednesday after the power electronics maker announced that it’s in exclusive negotiations to be acquired. CleanBreak estimates that a deal for the Burnaby, British Columbia-based company, which makes solar power inverters, could be worth as much as $400 million.

CleanBreak isn’t surprised by the possibility of an acquisition, calling Xantrex “a success story that investors didn’t fully appreciate.” The company reported C$62 million in revenue in the first quarter, a 55 percent increase over the same period the year before. Xantrex is scheduled to report its second-quarter results at the end of the month.
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