Nat Semi plans big push into solar energy

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Microchip maker National Semiconductor Corp, best known for making parts for the iPhone and other wireless devices, plans to jump into solar by unveiling chips that will boost solar panel efficiency.

Alternative energy such as solar power is hot in Silicon Valley, where funding for new ideas is available and technology companies are finding their products adaptable to the new market.

So far National Semiconductor has no solar business. But Chief Executive Brian Halla told the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York that he dreamed of solar accounting for a quarter of the company's revenue.

"Oh I certainly hope so," he said, when asked if such a percentage of revenue from solar was possible. "That would be a fantasy fulfilled of mine, but I'd like to see that in the next couple of years. We made a major bet on it and I think we've got some winning technology."

Halla cautioned that the technology, dubbed "Solar Magic" was just beginning field trials and was six months away from certification. "We'll see what kind of a response we get," he said.

Halla declined to give many details of the project, which National Semiconductor expects to announce with field test partners in a couple of weeks.

But he said that the key was to use microchip technology to increase efficiency of solar panels by about 10 percent.

"It will make existing panel technology much more efficient. It will solve for shade," he said, explaining that arrays of solar panels can be affected by relatively minor amounts of shade. "When one of the panels goes bad, the entire strip goes bad," he said.

The technology could be ready for sale after certification, Halla said.

"In six months you should be able to put an array up there that can continue to give good power even in shade or a rainstorm, or even if a flock of birds fly over and hit the same panel all at once," he said.


in Year