-- Solar power is making small steps toward wider uses. A new inverter, developed by the U.S. Energy Dept.'s Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., will allow the connection of solar energy panels to conventional power grids. With old systems, if a region of the grid had to be shut down for maintenance, the photovoltaic cells kept pumping in power, posing a threat to line workers. The new inverter senses when the cells are not needed and shuts them off, or diverts the power to another application, such as a storage battery.

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