Electricity generation currently accounts for ~40% of primary energy consumption in the U.S. and continues to be the fastest growing form of end-use energy. Power electronics condition, control, and convert electrical power in order to provide optimal conditions for transmission, distribution, and load-side consumption. Most of today’s power electronics have limitations to their performance, temperature resilience, and size due to the circuit topology and semiconductor power devices used. Emerging semiconductor devices such as those based on wide-bandgap materials — along with transformative advances in circuit design and system architecture — present opportunities to dramatically improve power converter performance while reducing size and weight. Development of advanced power electronics with unprecedented functionality, efficiency, reliability, and form factor will help provide the U.S. a critical technological advantage in an increasingly electrified world economy.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Switched Source will develop a power-electronics based hardware solution to fortify electric distribution systems, with the goal of delivering cost-effective infrastructure retrofits to match rapid advancements in energy generation and consumption. The company’s power flow controller will improve capabilities for routing electricity between neighboring distribution circuit feeders, so that grid operators can utilize the system as a more secure, reliable, and efficient networked platform. The topology the team is incorporating into its controller will eliminate the need for separate heavy and expensive transformers, as well as the costly construction of new distribution lines and substations in many cases. The power flow controller’s low weight and small size means that it can be installed anywhere in the existing grid to optimize energy distribution and help reduce congestion. If successful, implementation of Switched Source’s power flow controller will also significantly increase hosting capacity and connectivity for distributed renewable generation. During a prior ARPA-E GENI award, this team developed this platform technology. Now, as an addition to the ARPA-E CIRCUITS program, the team will further its research.
If successful, CIRCUITS projects will enable further development of a new class of power converters suitable for a broad range of applications including motor drives for heavy equipment and consumer appliances, electric vehicle battery charging, high-performance computer data centers, grid applications for stability and resilience, and emerging electric propulsion systems.
More robust power electronics that withstand higher operating temperatures, have increased durability, a smaller form factor, and higher efficiency will significantly improve the reliability and security of a resilient electrical grid.
Low cost and highly efficient power electronics could lead to more affordable electric and hybrid-electric transportation, greater integration of renewable power sources, and higher efficiency electric motors for use in heavy industries and consumer applications.
Electricity is the fastest growing form of end-use energy in the United States. High performance, low cost power electronics would enable significant efficiency gains across the economy, reducing energy costs for businesses and families.