The U.S. Energy Department today announced up to $20 million in available funding to spur the development of high speed industrial motors and drives, using high power-density designs and integrated power electronics to increase efficiency.
The industrial sector consumes over a quarter of the electricity produced in the United States and is projected to increase its use by approximately 30% by 2040. Replacing less efficient systems that have fixed-speed motors and gearboxes with variable-speed direct-drive motor systems and incorporating recent power electronics advances, such as wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, could help industry save on energy costs and improve their competitiveness. WBG components—which control or convert electrical energy into usable power—can operate at higher temperatures, voltages, and frequencies, and are more durable and reliable than silicon-based counterparts. In fact, widely deploying these WBG system electronics could save 2% to 4% in industry’s electricity consumption and billions of dollars.
The Energy Department plans to select four to six projects, through the Next Generation Electric Machines: Megawatt Class Motors funding opportunity, that demonstrate the benefits of using WBG variable-speed drives. These projects are expected to target a 30% reduction in system losses and a 50% reduction in size for megawatt-scale motor and drive systems used in the chemical and petroleum refining industries, natural gas infrastructure, and general industry compressor applications like HVAC systems, refrigeration, and wastewater pumps. The selected teams will develop integrated motor drive system components including:
- Front end power processing units
- Medium voltage class WBG semiconductor-based variable-speed drives
- High speed motors that can be directly coupled to appropriate industrial loads