Wind and solar energy are industries undergoing momentous technological changes. The power grid parity goal —where the cost of solar or wind power matches and exceeds that of traditional energy electricity generation types—is getting closer, as the conversion of dc power from the systems to usable ac becomes more efficient and affordable. In wind turbines and solar farms, power semiconductors convert variable voltage inputs to fixed voltage outputs for connection to the grid. Power system circuitry must be able to operate safely in a wide range of harsh environments involving widely varying temperatures, humidity and even salt levels in offshore installations. Designs must be high reliability, high efficiency, with low voltage ride through and very low output frequencies.
The next wave of advancement in wind turbines and solar panels for renewable energy will be driven by new technologies for power converter systems. The emergence of advanced and sophisticated multilevel power switching topologies will enable faster power switches, higher operating voltages (up to 1600 VDC) and higher performance. Smaller, faster systems will require improvements throughout the power conversion chain. Semiconductor-based power electronics will play a major role by boosting performance, minimizing power losses and optimizing thermal management.
At the heart of the converters for wind turbines and solar farms, power electronic solutions from Rogers are playing a major role in increasing the efficiency, performance and reliability at the IGBT and MOSFET connection level with curamik® ceramic substrates and ROLINX® busbars.
Insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) offer high input impedance, making them popular in renewable energy (PV and wind) power conversion. They have lower gate drive requirements and lower switching losses, making them more efficient at smaller sizes and lower costs. IGBT connections are often the first choice for high current and high voltage applications.
Power MOSFETs are extremely fast and the high switching speed yields low switching loss. They can be found in most power supplies, DC-DC converters and low voltage motor controllers. Super junction MOSFETs are increasingly being used in to increase the efficiency and reduce the size of power converters for renewable energy applications.