Microsemi customizable SoC addresses PV cost and warranty demands

Microsemi is using customizable system-on-chips (cSoCs) to tackle the market demand for longer photovoltaics (PV) warranties and lower costs. Rufino Olay, senior marketing solutions manager at Microsemi, describes the approach.

October 25, 2011 — Microsemi is using customizable system-on-chips (cSoCs) to tackle the market demand for longer photovoltaics (PV) warranties and lower costs. Rufino Olay, senior marketing solutions manager at Microsemi, described the approach in a podcast interview with ElectroIQ.com’s senior technical editor Debra Vogler.

cSoCs address the need to consolidate the system and supporting functions in a complete mixed-signal platform optimized for low-power consumption (PV inverters) and the computer platforms required for wireless infrastructure. The integration of other board-level components into a cSoC also drives down the system cost. The approach has three components as described by Olay:

  • A processing platform architected for energy efficiency (Microsemi uses an ARM Cortex-M3 processor; see Figs. 1 and 2);
  • A programmable analog for sensing and control of the PV inverter for functions such as, grid sensing and temperature control;
  • FPGA logic, whereby hardware acceleration is accomplished through high-frequency switching capabilities (>300MHz) and the parallel nature of FPGA fabric.
Figure 1. Block diagram of Microsemi?s cSoC. SOURCE: Microsemi
Figure 2. Price-performance chart showing the energy-efficient Cortex-M family. Each is code-compatible across the entire platform for low- to high-end processing. SOURCE: Microsemi

“The FPGA is where designers add their secret sauce,” said Olay. ?Essentially, the FPGA can function as an arithmetic co-processor for extremely fast/pipelined computational algorithms, giving designers the ability to perform power to area trade-offs.? Olay also discusses design techniques in detail in the podcast, as well as the hardware and software improvements that will be necessary to continue evolving the FPGA platform for further cost savings.



Though Olay was not able to attend Solar Power International (10/17-10/20, Dallas, TX), his colleagues reported seeing increased inverter companies entering the market — not just Germany, but Spain, China, and Taiwan — at the show. “So we’re seeing a crowded market,” observed Olay, where product differentiation will be key. Furthermore, SPI showcased companies jumping into the microinverter/power optimizer market, where traditionally, it has been a string inverter market he said. “So we?re seeing a lot more companies and proprietary architectures coming out — it’s pretty exciting for everyone.”

Microsemi Corporation (Nasdaq:MSCC) offers a comprehensive portfolio of semiconductor solutions for: aerospace, defense and security; enterprise and communications; and industrial and alternative energy markets. Learn more at www.microsemi.com.

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