The Future of Energy – Energy Electronics News


Renewable energy, energy storage and electricity are part of the equation for the future, where green energy will replace aging electrical infrastructure around the world. The panel discussion at PowerUP Expo was aimed at discussing this very important and no less broad topic with the help of renowned energy experts.

Maurizio Di Paola Emilio, editor-in-chief of Power Electronics News, welcomed the jury and determined the course of the discussion on the future of energy after a brief introduction by the participants.

Steve Lambus, vice president of high-voltage energy at Texas Instruments, began the discussion by acknowledging that broadband (WBG) materials as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) provide a higher level of energy efficiency and density. He also noted that although there is a lot of information about the role of these WBG materials in the electrification of vehicles, the same is not in line with the design of smart grids.

SiC MOSFETs will be crucial in smart grid inverters. (Source: STMicroelectronics)

Philippe Di Giovanni, STMicroelectronics ’business unit manager, explained how useful WBG materials are in terms of form factor as well as smaller passive components at higher frequencies. Speaking of inverters for smart grids that require switches between 1,200 and 1,700 V, Di Giovanni said SiC MOSFETs are critical.

Another important issue that was raised during the panel discussion was the monitoring of power in high-voltage transmission lines. Conor Power, director of clean energy solutions at Analog Devices, noted that protective relays that turn off circuit breakers when power is too high usually run on battery or mains power. This puts more pressure on the government budget.

“The power monitoring system is an often forgotten area,” Power said. “But now network operators are starting to use inertial units.” They are used to study how unlocking and closing switches measure vibration signal at low and high levels. This allows smart grid operators to predict in advance whether the signature will change to intervene in such a situation.

Peter Friedrichs, senior director of SiC at Infineon Technologies, took the discussion to the next level by introducing a bidirectional energy flow that includes data transfer and security capabilities. As we move to voltages up to 1,500V, new power topologies will inevitably come into play. According to Friedrichs, power electronics will include a balanced blend of silicon and SiC components.

Next, Di Paolo Emilio asked Milan Rosin, chief analyst for power electronics and batteries Yole Développement, about renewable energy sources other than solar and wind. Here Rosina mentioned biomass, hydropower and energy turbines running on marine energy. As for biomass, he outlined environmental and ethical issues.

For hydropower, although the most efficient sites have already been built, wind farms that use sea currents have great potential, at least on paper. However, problems persist due to corrosion as well as installation and safety issues. Therefore, Rosina believes that photovoltaics and wind have greater potential.

Then it was time to talk about digital management of distributed energy sources, and here Di Paolo Emilio invited to discuss Shuli Goodman. Goodman is the CEO of LF Energy, an open source fund focused on the power sector. Goodman began to talk about the incredible transformations taking place in the power industry, including the transition from centralized to distributed power grids.

He said we are only less than 10% in the United States when it comes to renewable energy. Moreover, network operators have not come close to capacity for resources. This, according to Goodman, requires a new paradigm that is native to digital and understands power systems. This means that power regulators need to have a fundamental understanding of the digital environment.

The second round of the panel discussion

Da Paola Emilio started the second round with a more focused discussion on the high-voltage designs and multi-level topologies that will come with these power systems. For example, how to switch to faster switches based on SiC and GaN semiconductors? Here Lambouses from TI talked about the problems of power outages and moving energy to the grid and beyond.

Next, Di Giovanni of STMicro explained the benefits of SiC for constant / constant conversion at higher voltages in which silicon MOSFET exhibits high RDS and silicon IGBTs are viable only at lower frequencies. He also explained why we need to adopt synchronous rectification methods.

Speaking for the second time, a representative of ADI’s Power stressed the need for more accurate battery management. To begin, it is necessary to accurately measure the voltage of each cell. In addition, it is necessary to carefully monitor and adjust the temperature fluctuations in the battery. Another factor that makes battery management a challenge is cell balancing: engineers need to accurately balance each cell in a sequential system.

Battery management greatly increases energy efficiency in smart grid designs. (Source: Analog Devices)

Friedrich of Infineon developed the need to integrate storage into a smart grid and how it will improve energy efficiency by providing energy where and where it is most needed. He also explained the need for communication and security elements in this energy management system.

Goodman of LF Energy again continued to focus on the political and socio-economic aspects of the new energy structures, this time talking about open source tools for building new power grids. As an anecdotal proof, he talked about the evolution of mobile phones from the big expensive boxes of the late 1980s to modern smartphones. “Essentially, it’s an economic equation,” he said.

Rosina of Yole, the final participant of the second round, drew attention to the inertia of network operators in adopting locally distributed energy. Thus, he concluded that the most viable way to implement a smart grid is stationary batteries.

At the end of the panel discussion, Di Paolo Emilio thanked all participants for their valuable insights into the future of energy. He then invited Bolaji Ojo, former global co-editor of AspenCore Media, to deliver his closing remarks.

Proceedings of the PowerUp Expo Conference

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The Future of Energy – Energy Electronics News

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