SRC to advance PV and smart grid technologies

Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), a university-research consortium for semiconductors and related technologies based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., is adding three members to the global Energy Research Initiative (ERI) that focuses on new technologies for renewable energy and its efficient and reliable distribution on the power grid. The addition of Hydro One Networks, NEC and ON Semiconductor brings the recently created ERI to 10 members and expands the team’s focus to include finding new materials, devices and methodologies for power controls/management and energy collection, conversion and storage.

ERI’s goal is to address the world’s need for smart alternative energy sources and prepare students with the technical skills required for the growing industry. ERI’s approach is to create and leverage university research centers to address the specific energy research needs of its industry members.

Joining with ERI charter members ABB, Applied Materials, Bosch, First Solar, IBM, Nexans and Tokyo Electron, the three new member companies also will collaborate with selected universities to conduct the industry-specified research.

“It’s a rare advantage for research to enjoy such a diverse range of international expertise as these 10 members of the ERI represent,” said SRC Executive Vice President Steven Hillenius. “We recognize that the scope of what’s required to integrate renewable energy with the smart grid most efficiently is more than what any one company or industry can achieve. By applying its world-class individual and collective strengths, this team of industry and academia should generate far-reaching benefits for global energy use.”

Started in 2010, the ERI focused initially on two critical areas for efficient distribution of renewable energy resources – photovoltaics (PV) and systems and technologies to enable and optimize smart grids. Two centers for ERI research were established at Purdue and Carnegie Mellon universities to work with the industry to produce new findings for commercial applications to photovoltaics (PV) and smart grid.

The new, third center designated to drive advances in power electronics and energy storage will leverage existing centers of excellence in these critical areas and also include researchers from other universities worldwide. As planned, advancements from the current ERI centers in PV and smart grid will be integrated with results from the new center in power electronics and energy storage to provide efficient and affordable solutions for power generation, distribution and use from renewable energy systems.

Among critical elements of the combined effort, the ERI team is creating modeling and simulation tools to support the development of improved photovoltaic devices. They also are developing systems and technologies that will enable an efficient, reliable and secure smart grid electricity infrastructure with integrated renewable energy resources.

In addition to chip manufacturers and energy-related companies, several other industries could also gain greater product effectiveness from related research into ERI’s areas of expertise. These discoveries and their applications ultimately should allow for the realization of a cleaner, more affordable energy network for the planet.

In support of the ERI mission, the third center of research excellence, the Power Electronics and Energy Storage Center, is expected to begin work this spring. Key overarching technical challenges addressed by the center will be:

·         Development of solid state devices with high-voltage/current handling capabilities;

·         Bi-directional power electronics for interfacing, control and stabilization of intermittent renewable energy, including PV at the home/office and smart grid; and

·         Improved performance and lower cost methods for controlling parallel groups of energy storage cells (potential application of wireless sensors), optimized charge/release functions with the grid and dynamic Volt-Var support including optimization of battery charging efficiency and battery life.

ERI is managed by the SRC subsidiary, Energy Research Corp, which was formed in 2009 to create opportunities between the semiconductor industry and energy sector.

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