SEMIKRON, PCS Power Converter Solutions (PCS) and the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden) have completed a joint research project to optimise the energy efficiency of wind and solar power modules.

The German Ministry of Education and Research has supported the project under its ‘Power Electronics for Improved Energy Efficiency’ initiative, while the federal government has backed the project as part of its high-tech strategy and ‘Information and Communication Technology 2020’ (ICT 2020) initiative.

With total funding of around €1.2m from the initiatives, the project, named ‘More efficient use of regenerative energies with multi-level topologies – EEMT’, has led to the design of a new type of converter system, which can efficiently convert electrical energy for the power supply network.

The new converter systems featuring multi-level topology significantly reduces the role of electrical filter switches and the resulting losses compared to currently available converters to meet the minimum feed-in quality standards for generated power.

"The participants have developed a 1MW prototype to test the functionality and to check all of the technical features for the project."

The new systems are equipped with intelligent three-point phase components, which allow increasing the voltage level to just under the medium level for low-voltage applications having their own grid connection transformers, such as wind turbines or solar power modules, thereby increasing energy efficiency and reducing losses.

In the new system, serial high-speed EtherCAT data bus connections synchronise a central controller and decentralised phase components as against the conventional converter system, where communication between the phase components occurs on the basis of a decentralised modulator.SEMIKRON designed the inverter system with new modular phase components that was integrated into power converter, developed by PCS, while the Electrical Engineering Institute’s Chair for Power Electronics at TU Dresden developed the driver circuitry and protective components.

Originally initiated for improving the efficiency of wind turbines, the project has an expanded scope as these converters could also be used with drives for raw materials mining, with main drive and onboard power supply systems in rail vehicles, for 1,500Vdc overhead lines as well as with solar inverters.

The participants have developed a 1MW prototype to test the functionality and to check all of the technical features for the project.

Image: SEMIKRON, PCS and TU Dresden developed test set-up multi-level topology converter. Photo: courtesy of SEMIKRON.