New Device Could Give Boost to Renewable Energy

November 21, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

A University of Texas at Dallas researcher has developed a key element in the renewable energy equation: a prototype electronic interface that routes power from renewable sources to the power grid and electrical storage facilities.

"Our Multi-Port Power Electronic Interface guarantees optimal energy harvesting from solar panels and wind turbines," said Dr. Babak Fahimi, a professor of electrical engineering in the University’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. "This converter utilizes an adaptive controller to optimally increase efficiency and reliability for each operational condition while performing energy management algorithms to ensure the best performance."

Five years in development, the converter would be perfect for use by small to medium-size businesses, large residential buildings and shopping centers that decide to make an investment in renewable energy, Fahimi said. Able to be controlled and monitored wirelessly, the converter is also easy to operate in remote areas.

Among the highest hurdles to producing the technology, Fahimi said, was developing mechanisms for the integrated control of energy harvesting, storage and dispatch. With a prototype now in hand, though, field tests are planned for early next year in Texas and California.

The school’s first faculty member dedicated to the area of power electronics and renewable/sustainable energy, Fahimi just recently joined UT Dallas, where he founded the Renewable Energy and Vehicular Technology Laboratory.