What are Power Electronic Devices?
Power electronic devices are used to convert electricity from one form to another. A common example of a power electronics device is an inverter, which converts direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels into alternating current (AC) electricity for use on the electrical grid. Another example is a bi-directional converter, which converts DC electricity from battery storage into AC electricity during discharge for use on the electrical grid, and AC to DC during battery charge. There are many other types of power electronic devices in the electric power system.
All PV-generated electricity must flow through a power electronic device. As more solar energy systems are added to the grid, more inverters are being connected to the grid than ever before, making these tools increasingly important to maintaining a reliable and resilient grid. Learn more about how inverters work.
Why are Power Electronic Devices Important?
Power electronics are enabling technologies for solar grid integration and grid modernization, as 80% of electricity could flow through power electronics by 2030. Solar power electronics innovations are driven by the need for lowering cost and improving efficiency and service life. In addition, these devices need capabilities to improve grid resilience, reliability, and security via advanced control and system integration. Developing more reliable and less expensive power electronic devices will help the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to further reduce the cost of solar-generated electricity and increase the reliability of the grid. Learn more about SETO’s goals.
SETO Research in Power Electronic Devices
SETO funds research and development projects that aim to innovate hardware design and control solutions to improve equipment efficiency and reliability, reduce photovoltaic plant lifetime costs, enhance capabilities for advanced power flow control, protection, security, and enable increased amounts of solar energy on the nation’s electric grid. There are several funding programs within SETO that contain power electronics projects:
- The Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 funding program is developing solutions that improve the cybersecurity of operational systems used in electric utility operations for managing inverters.
- The Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 funding program improves the protection distribution power system and enhances the visibility and control of PV inverters and plants.
- The Advanced Power Electronics Design for Solar Applications funding program aims to reduce PV plant lifetime costs and enhance capabilities for real-time PV power flow control.
- The UNIFI Consortium brings together leading researchers, industry stakeholders, utilities, and system operators to advance grid-forming inverter technologies.
To view specific projects supporting power electronic devices, search the Solar Energy Research Database.