Maximum power point tracking (MPPT or sometimes just PPT) is a technique used commonly with wind turbines and photovoltaic (PV) solar systems to maximize power extraction under all conditions.
Although solar power is mainly covered, the principle applies generally to sources with variable power: for example, optical power transmission and thermophotovoltaics.
PV solar systems exist in many different configurations with regard to their relationship to inverter systems, external grids, battery banks, or other electrical loads. Regardless of the ultimate destination of the solar power, though, the central problem addressed by MPPT is that the efficiency of power transfer from the solar cell depends on both the amount of sunlight falling on the solar panels and the electrical characteristics of the load. As the amount of sunlight varies, the load characteristic that gives the highest power transfer efficiency changes, so that the efficiency of the system is optimized when the load characteristic changes to keep the power transfer at highest efficiency. This load characteristic is called the maximum power point and MPPT is the process of finding this point and keeping the load characteristic there. Electrical circuits can be designed to present arbitrary loads to the photovoltaic cells and then convert the voltage, current, or frequency to suit other devices or systems, and MPPT solves the problem of choosing the best load to be presented to the cells in order to get the most usable power out.
Solar cells have a complex relationship between temperature and total resistance that produces a non-linear output efficiency which can be analyzed based on the I-V curve. It is the purpose of the MPPT system to sample the output of the PV cells and apply the proper resistance (load) to obtain maximum power for any given environmental conditions. MPPT devices are typically integrated into an electric power converter system that provides voltage or current conversion, filtering, and regulation for driving various loads, including power grids, batteries, or motors.
Solar inverters convert the DC power to AC power and may incorporate MPPT: such inverters sample the output power (I-V curve) from the solar modules and apply the proper resistance (load) so as to obtain maximum power.
The power at the MPP (Pmpp) is the product of the MPP voltage(Vmpp) and MPP current(Impp).
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