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National Semiconductor goes green(er)

Acquires photovoltaic start-up

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Analog chipmaker National Semiconductor took another step towards repositioning itself a green-technology heavyweight when it announced Friday that it had acquired Act Solar, a Santa Clara, California company specializing in power optimization of solar-cell arrays.

By doing so, Nat Semi muscled up its SolarMagic solar-power optimization technology, which it launched June 2008.

Privately held Act Solar was founded in 2006 and began field trials of its self-described "flagship technology," PowerString, in 2008. PowerString works to balance photo-voltaic (PV) arrays, which are notoriously susceptible to overall inefficiencies when even part of an array is degraded due to aging, or shaded by dust or debris.

Even bird-droppings on one PV panel can make an entire array less efficient. According to Nat Semi, as little as 10 per cent shade on a PV array can result in as much as 50 per cent lost energy. PowerString's array balancers reduce that loss considerably, according to the company.

Act Solar's PowerString now becomes "part of the SolarMagic family," according to a company statement. As such, the Solarians join a company that only last week announced 1,725 layoffs and the closing of two of its five plants.

But with the US government investing billions in green technology, the Act Solar acquisition might help point struggling Nat Semi in the right direction - towards federally supported funding.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. ®

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