The Energy Department announced up to $20 million in funding to spur the development of high speed industrial motors and drives, using high power-density designs and integrated power electronics to increase efficiency.
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, according to DOE. 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.
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 percent reduction in system losses and a 50 percent 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.