Wholesale Shunt Regulator for PV Systems
Essentially, a shunt regulator — also known as a shunt voltage regulator (aka. charge controller)— is a form of regulator where the regulating element shunts the current to ground. By maintaining a constant voltage across its terminals, it takes up the surplus current to maintain the voltage across the load.
In terms of the basic operation of a shunt regulator, the load is operated with a resistor in series with the voltage source and the shunt regulator in parallel with the load. In order to keep the voltage across the load constant, a level of current must be drawn through the series resistor to maintain the required voltage across the load. The load will take some, and the remaining current is drawn by the shunt voltage regulator.
The circuit is designed so that at maximum load current, the shunt regulator draws virtually no current, and at minimum load current, the shunt voltage regulator passes the full current. As a result, it can be seen that shunt regulators are inefficient because the maximum current is drawn from the source regardless of the load current, i.e. when there is no load current.
Because of the purpose of the shunt regulator, this device has been considered as an essential element within the linear power supply technology.
Zener Diode Shunt Charge Controller
One of the most common and simple forms of shunt regulator is the simple Zener diode regulator circuit.
Its mechnism is very straightforward. Once over its small minimum current, the Zener diode maintains an almost constant voltage across its terminals. The series resistor drops the voltage from the source to the Zener diode and load. As the Zener diode maintains its voltage, any variations in load current do not affect the voltage across the Zener diode. It takes up the current variations required to ensure the correct drop across the series resistor. In this way, it shunts sufficient current to maintain the voltage across its terminals and hence the load.
In the shunt voltage regulator circuit, the Zener diode must be capable of dissipating the power from the maximum amount of current it can handle. This is most likely to be a little more than the maximum current supplied to the load as the Zener diode will need to pass all the current when the load current is zero. Therefore, the total maximum current that will be passed by the diode is the load current plus an allowance for current to maintain the reference voltage when the load is taking its maximum current.
It should also be noted that for the shunt regulator circuit, the series resistance is comprised of the series resistor value, plus any source resistance. In most cases, the value of the series resistor will dominate and the source resistance can be ignored — but this may not always be true.
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