Project Name: PV Inverter Systems Enabled by Monolithically Integrated Silicon Carbide–Based Four Quadrant Power Switch
Funding Opportunity: Advanced Power Electronics Designs for Solar Applications
SETO Subprogram: Systems Integration
Location: Raleigh, NC
SETO Award Amount: $1.5 million
Awardee Cost Share: $400,000

This project team will develop a power conversion device for commercial-scale photovoltaic (PV) plants that can integrate distributed energy resources (DER). A key component is the design of a silicon carbide (SiC) bidirectional switch that can block voltage and move current in forward and reverse directions through the device with improved performance. Using advanced packaging methods, compact system-level integration, and advanced controls to maximize efficiency, enhance power density, and improve grid reliability, this project will reduce the levelized cost of solar energy. 

APPROACH

The team will use a process designed by North Carolina State University to make a SiC bidirectional switch for the power conversion device. It will leverage the school’s resources to create hardware prototypes and demonstrate a power conversion system at power levels and voltage ratings for commercial installations up to 10 kilowatts, in collaboration with PowerAmerica, one of 14 Manufacturing Institutes funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, whose focus is advancing SiC and gallium nitride technologies. Real-time simulations will show the advanced grid-support features developed for this system. The team will also investigate single-phase and three-phase PV inverter designs for residential and commercial installations to reduce lifetime costs, and design custom packaging to minimize parasitic energy losses during operation.

INNOVATION

The bidirectional-switch converter will increase the power density of alternating current and eliminate the need for bulky capacitors found in conventional systems. In addition to reduced lifetime costs and better performance, this system will provide enhanced grid services capabilities and optimized DER integration. The device will increase reliability, redundancy, and interoperability, creating a template for the development of high-frequency power electronics that can help expand the use of PV in commercial and domestic spaces.