US startup unveils solid-state AC/DC enabler, AC switch

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From pv magazine USA

For a company yet to release a commercial product, the claim that said company will “disrupt the global electrical and powered products industries” is nothing short of lofty. And yet this is the exact rhetoric preached by those at Amber Solutions, a Silicon Valley startup that has developed a “groundbreaking” AC/DC enabler and AC switch.

The technology does not use standard electromechanical structures, as it replaces those components with a much more compact solid-state board, with solid-state referring to electricity flowing through solid semiconductor crystals within the board, rather than vacuum tubes. The resulting technology, according to Amber Solutions CEO Thar Casey, is faster and more reliable than any competing product.

‘It was never about ‘Ok, how do we improve on something that is broken?’ What if we come up with something that is totally different?’ When we realized eventually what we had, we realized that it was very big,” Casey told pv magazine. “‘That’s when we went out there and started to build the company around what we have and brought all of these investors with us. At the end of the day, what we have here isn’t an addition, it’s not an added bell or whistle to an existing technology. In reality it’s about disruption, true disruption.”

The company has signed deals with leading global electronics manufacturers, three of which were signed during the Covid-19 lockdown, to explore product, scoping, development, and contract terms.

“You have to have a hardware interface between all sources of energy. Amber Board Member Mark Telefus told pv magazine. “To use that energy in a household, you have to find the proper balance – an equilibrium. You need synchronization between the inverter, the battery and the generation source. As of right now, there’s this specialized, dedicated, box where all the circuit breakers and switches are located. Our AC switch is adaptive. What it does is measure the energy availability of all energy sources available. Based on what you see, you make a decision whether to use all of your resources simultaneously, one resource at a time or alternate resources at different times.”

And while this level of control does exist for solar+storage installations, it is currently handled by standard electro-mechanical structures. According to the folks at Amber Solutions, their AC switch is able to achieve every necessary function in a smaller form factor, more quickly, due to the solid-state board and with a considerably lower rates of degradation and failure, which contribute to a longer system life.

Those themes of reliability and control come up constantly when talking to the Amber Solutions team, affirming how critical they are to the company’s mission. Now, as the company moves from developing demo models and pre-production concepts and starts to work with electronics manufacturers, Amber’s solid-state technology will be put to the test, to see if it can deliver on these lofty promises.