SiC, EVs, HAN and Wi-Fi Featured in Smart Grid Electronics Forum Plenary

October 25, 2011 by Jeff Shepard

The extended plenary session at this week’s second-annual Smart Grid Electronics Forum in San Jose, featured speakers from Fairchild Semiconductor, TDI Power, Qualcomm Atheros and Redpine Signals addressing a broad array of advanced technology solutions for the successful development of the next-generation of smart grid applications.

Dan Kinzer, Chief Technology Officer from Fairchild presented the latest developments in advanced semiconductor technologies for an array of smart grid applications. He started his talk with a discussion of the advantages of a SiC BJT based solution for improving the performance of both PV inverters and electric vehicle power electronics. Among the advantages derived from using SiC BJTs in these applications are higher efficiencies, smaller converters (as a result of higher switching frequencies), and improved reliability.

Kinzer next addressed the needs of emerging home automation networks (HAN) and consumer electronics. Advanced semiconductor devices such as power factor correction ICs, integrated dc-dc conversion solutions and smart power modules for advanced motor drives will all make major contributions to improving the energy efficiency of consumer electronics and white goods. In particular integrated brushless dc (BLDC) solutions coupled with embedded MCUs can provide advanced functionality with competitive costs.

Finally, Kinzer presented the emitter-switched bipolar transistor (ESBC) as an attractive solution for powering advanced smart meters. The ESBC features combined benefits from of a bipolar device (high breakdown capability 1.5 kV, low conduction and switching losses) and a MOSFET (high operating frequency and easy drive) The devices are currently offered in a D2-Pak modified for 2.5kV.

Gary Mulcahy, Chief Technology Officer, TDI Power, presented "Adapting EV & PHEV Power Plants to the Utility Grid" during which he discussed some of the challenges related to using EVs to export power back to the grid. He noted that eliminating the isolation barrier between the utility grid and an EV or PHEV battery offers advantages in terms of power converter size, complexity and cost. A non-isolated converter will require battery isolation fault monitoring circuits be tailored to different operating modes.

Adam Lapede, Senior Director with Qualcomm Atheros discussed, "The Challenges and Opportunities for Tomorrow’s Smarter Home". He presented the new HomePlug Green PHY (HPGP) standard. A new, innovative standard for powerline communications technology that is HomePlug Alliance certified and fully interoperable profile of IEEE1901/HPAV. His concluded that smart grid challenges require a portfolio of IP-based scalable technologies. And that successful development of compreehensive HAN solutions will demand a blending of the new HomePlug Green PHY with existing WiFi and Cellular communications.

How Wi-Fi Embedded Chipsets can be Used in the Smart Grid, was presented by N. Venkatesh, Vice President Advanced Technologies, Redpine Signals. WiFi can provide universal wireless IP-based connectivity for a wide array of HAN devices such as smart meters, thermostats, circuit breakers, laptop computers, displays, HVAC equipment and more. Self-contained Wi-Fi modules bring a host of advantages to the system designer including; integrated RF and antenna, layout considerations are taken care of, stable frequency reference included for predictable performance, single power-supply with built-in power management, modular certification for FCC, pre-tested and pre-calibrated for high yield on main system, WLAN protocol stack included in the device, and more.

He also noted that version 2.0 of the smart energy profile (SEP 2.0) allows for multiple PHY layers, including Wi-Fi. And that SEP 2.0 over Wi-Fi is supported and promoted by the Wi-Fi Allilance. Advanced Wi-Fi solutions bring enterprise-level security, high date rates and range up to 500 meters with low energy consumption.

More news and information regarding the latest developments in Smart Grid electronics can be found at Darnell’s SmartGridElectronics.Net.