SPEEDing up grid efficiency

EU-funded SPEED project aims to significantly improve the efficiency and reliability of high-voltage power transmission and distribution – including the penetration of renewable energy – in as little as four years.

One of the main highlights at this year's CWIEME Berlin – the world's largest exhibition for coil winding, insulation and electrical manufacturing – is a seminar from Dr. Daniel Fernandez, CTO of INAEL Electrical systems and coordinator of the €20 million SPEED project.

Involving 17 companies and research institutions – including ABB, Infineon and INAEL – from nine different EU countries, SPEED aims to make a step change in the efficiency of power generation, distribution and transmission through the use of silicon carbide – as a higher-performing alternative to silicon – in high power semiconductor devices.
"Silicon carbide is a much better insulator than silicon and can withstand far higher voltages – which makes it attractive for high voltage and high power electrical circuits," says Dr. Fernandez. "The snag is the price."

A key contribution of the project, therefore, is to establish the technology required to produce lower cost silicon carbide in sufficiently large amounts to compete with silicon. Since SPEED began in earnest six months ago, the project team has already made progress in growing wafers of consistently high quality, using techniques that Dr. Fernandez hopes will be industrialized in the future at very low cost. The next challenge is to incorporate these wafers into circuits and devices –and is the reason for Dr. Fernandez's appearance at CWIEME Berlin.

"This project is all about developing real-world solutions that will become available in no more than four years. So I'm really looking forward to putting our research to an industrial audience at CWIEME Berlin – to energy and utility companies and transformer, insulation and switch manufacturers – and receiving their feedback. I want to solve their problems!" he says.

More reliable and environmental

One problem that SPEED anticipates solving is the relatively low penetration of renewable energy in the power grid.

"When you change wind or solar power into a form that is acceptable to the grid you lose a lot of energy," says Dr. Fernandez. "Our current technology is somehow ‘pre-electronic' from this point of view. But with silicon carbide devices you could feed much more power into the system, allowing us to increase the total contribution of renewable energy on the grid."

This increased efficiency also has the potential to reduce energy costs but another more certain benefit is increased reliability. More robust transmission and distribution devices would limit disruptions to supply and lay the foundations for the spread of electric vehicles as well as other new electricity-based systems.

Expert in semiconductors

Dr. Daniel Fernandez studied Physics at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid before completing his PhD thesis on new models of highly nonlinear charge transport through polycrystalline seminconductors at the Madrid Polytechnical University in 2004. After graduation Dr. Fernandez was hired to set up a ceramic semiconductors factory, IKV Varistores, in Toledo, Spain, which was later acquired by INAEL Electrical Systems, where Dr. Fernandez now works as CTO. Dr. Fernandez has held posts at the University of Sydney, Princeton University and Stanford University – publishing numerous works on semiconductors – and currently holds a research position at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. He also acts as a consultant for a variety of technology companies.

"We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Fernandez to CWIEME Berlin 2014," says Chloe Theobald, content manager for CWIEME Berlin. "Promising significant improvements to the grid in just four years' time, SPEED is one of the most exciting industrial research projects happening in Europe right now – Dr. Fernandez has a lot to offer our visitors."

Dr. Fernandez will be presenting ‘SPEED EU Project – Power electronics and the next generation of efficiency: The EU consortium seeking to make breakthroughs with SiC technology across the supply chain' at CWIEME Central on Thursday 26th June, 11:50-12:30.

CWIEME Central seminars are held in English and free for all CWIEME Berlin visitors to attend.

CWIEME Berlin – the world's largest event for coil winding, insulation and electrical manufacturing

Dates: 24th-26th June 2014
Venue: Messe Berlin, Messedamm 22, 14055 Berlin, Germany
Opening times: Tuesday and Wednesday 09:00-18:00, Thursday 09:00-16:00
Admission: Visit www.coilwindingexpo.com/berlinto register for your free visitor's entry badge today.An on-site registration fee of €40 will apply for those who have not already registered online.

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