Aston University has played a key role in a £20,000 feasibility study from the Technology Strategy Board with three leading power engineering and power electronics companies; Anvil Semiconductors Ltd (lead company), Western Power Distribution and Converter Technology Ltd. The study relates to methods which will enhance the capacity of the existing infrastructure for UK electrical residential networks in order to deal with increased demand for power. One of the key challenges facing the UK electrical Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) today is the demand for power being placed on residential networks, e.g. general load growth, the proliferation of electrical vehicles (EVs) and electrified heat. Moreover, there are problems associated with an increase in the connection of distributed generation (DG) and energy storage devices. Anvil Semiconductors Ltd and Converter Technology are working alongside Western Power Distribution, the electricity distribution network operator for the Midlands, South West and Wales. Anvil Semiconductors Ltd was established in 2010 and develops low cost Silicon Carbide (SiC) power devices which will improve the efficiency of power conversion in many applications. Converter Technology was formed in 2006 and enables companies to integrate energy efficient power conversion into their products at a minimal cost.
At Aston, Dr Andrew Cross and supported by Dr Jin Yang, both from Aston University’s Power Engineering and Power Electronics Group based in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, plan to achieve this increase in capacity over the existing infrastructure by increasing the local network voltage. This will be achieved by the deployment of DNO-owned, low-cost, high-efficiency power electronic converters (PECs) installed at individual properties.
The performance that these PECs need can only be achieved using new SiC semiconductor switching devices. However, the cost of existing commercially available SiC is very high. This project will consider the applications of a new, highly innovative fabrication technique for SiC power devices, ultimately leading to not only an increase in the capacity of the existing network, but offering flexible, optimised connections for emerging EV charging, DG and energy storage devices. Western Power Distribution is aiming to improve the capacity, reliability and efficiency of the local consumer supply network through the project. The research will also benefit Converter Technology by allowing them to expand their portfolio of knowledge into the large market associated with high-power, SiC based converter circuits. Anvil Semiconductors will use the project to help shape their power device technology and hence improve its competitive position in the market.
The Power Engineering and Power Electronics Group at Aston have a successful history of working with industry, having also recently entered a partnership with Alstom Grid to help the engineering company design and build more efficient power converter technologies for the energy grids of the future. Dr Andrew Cross said: ‘We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with three leading companies in the power engineering and power electronics sector. If this study is successful, it could have a substantial impact in enabling the mass use of green technologies such as electric vehicles and renewable energy sources, as well as providing a smarter, more efficient and robust electricity network for the future’.
For further information and to discover more about working in partnership with Aston University contact the Business Partnership Unit, firstname.lastname@example.org or 0121 204 4242.