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Electricity Generation and Delivery

General Electric

Resilient Multi-Terminal HVDC Networks with High-Voltage High-Frequency Electronics

General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing electricity transmission hardware that could connect distributed renewable energy sources, like wind farms, directly to the grid--eliminating the need to feed the energy generated through intermediate power conversion stations before they enter the grid. GE is using the advanced semiconductor material silicon carbide (SiC) to conduct electricity through its transmission hardware because SiC can operate at higher voltage levels than semiconductors made out of other materials. This high-voltage capability is important because electricity must be converted to high-voltage levels before it can be sent along the grid's network of transmission lines. Power companies do this because less electricity is lost along the lines when the voltage is high.

General Electric

Nanoclay Reinforced Ethylene-Propylene-Rubber for Low-Cost HVDC Cabling

General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing new, low-cost insulation for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electricity transmission cables. The current material used to insulate HVDC transmission cables is very expensive and can account for as much as 1/3 of the total cost of a high-voltage transmission system. GE is embedding nanomaterials into specialty rubber to create its insulation. Not only are these materials less expensive than those used in conventional HVDC insulation, but also they will help suppress excess charge accumulation. The excess charge left behind on a cable poses a major challenge for high-voltage insulation--if it is not kept to a low level, it could ultimately lead the insulation to fail. GE's low-cost insulation is compatible with existing U.S. cable manufacturing processes, further enhancing its cost effectiveness.

General Electric

Electrothermal Energy Storage with a Multiphase Transcritical CO2 Cycle

GE is designing and testing components of a turbine system driven by high-temperature, high-pressure carbon dioxide (CO2) to develop a more durable and efficient energy conversion system. Current solar energy system components break down at high temperatures, shortening the system's cycle life. GE's energy storage system stores heat from the sun in molten salt at moderate temperature and uses surplus electricity from the grid to create a phase change heat sink, which helps manage the temperature of the system. Initially, the CO2 remains at a low temperature and low pressure to enable more efficient energy storage. Then, the temperature and pressure of the CO2 is increased and expanded through a turbine to generate dispatchable electricity. The dramatic change in temperature and pressure is enabled by an innovative system design that prevents thermal losses across the turbine and increases its cycle life. This grid-scale energy storage system could be coupled to a hybrid solar converter to deliver solar electricity on demand.

General Electric

Tensioned Fabric Wind Blades

General Electric (GE) Power & Water is developing fabric-based wind turbine blades that could significantly reduce the production costs and weight of the blades. Conventional wind turbines use rigid fiberglass blades that are difficult to manufacture and transport. GE will use tensioned fabric uniquely wrapped around a spaceframe blade structure, a truss-like, lightweight rigid structure, replacing current clam shell wind blades design. The blade structure will be entirely altered, allowing for easy access and repair to the fabric while maintaining conventional wind turbine performance. This new design could reduce production costs by 70% and enable automated manufacturing while reducing the processing time by more than 50%. GE's fabric-based blades could be manufactured in sections and assembled on-site, enabling the construction of much larger wind turbines that can capture more wind with significantly lower production and transportation costs.

General Electric

High-Voltage, High-Power Gas Tube Technology for HVDC Transmission

General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing a new gas tube switch that could significantly improve and lower the cost of utility-scale power conversion. A switch breaks an electrical circuit by interrupting the current or diverting it from one conductor to another. To date, solid state semiconductor switches have completely replaced gas tube switches in utility-scale power converters because they have provided lower cost, higher efficiency, and greater reliability. GE is using new materials and innovative designs to develop tubes that not only operate well in high-power conversion, but also perform better and cost less than non-tube electrical switches. A single gas tube switch could replace many semiconductor switches, resulting in more cost effective high power converters.

General Electric

Synthetic Reserves from Aggregated Distributed Flexible Resources

General Electric (GE) Global Research along with its partners will develop a novel distributed flexibility resource (DFR) technology that aggregates responsive flexible loads and DERs to provide synthetic reserve services to the grid while maintaining customer quality-of-service. A key innovation of the project is to develop a forecast tool that will use short-term and real-time weather forecasts along with other data to estimate the reserve potential of aggregate loads and DERs. An optimization framework that will enable aggregation of large numbers of flexible loads and DERs and determine the optimal schedule to bid into the wholesale market will be designed. A scalable control and communication architecture will enable coordination and control of the resources in real-time based on a novel two-tier hierarchical optimal control algorithm.

General Electric

Control Enabling Solutions with Ultrathin Strain and Temperature Sensor System for Reduced Battery Life Cycle Cost

General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing low-cost, thin-film sensors that enable real-time mapping of temperature and surface pressure for each cell within a battery pack, which could help predict how and when batteries begin to fail. The thermal sensors within today's best battery packs are thick, expensive, and incapable of precisely assessing important factors like temperature and pressure within their cells. In comparison to today's best systems, GE's design would provide temperature and pressure measurements using smaller, more affordable sensors than those used in today's measurement systems. Ultimately, GE's sensors could dramatically improve the thermal mapping and pressure measurement capabilities of battery management systems, allowing for better prediction of potential battery failures.

GeneSiC Semiconductor

Novel GaN Transistors for High Power Switching Applications

GeneSiC Semiconductor will lead a team to develop high-power and voltage (1200V) vertical transistors on free-standing gallium nitride (GaN) substrates. Bipolar junction transistors amplify or switch electrical current. NPN junction transistors are one class of these transistors consisting of a layer of p-type semiconductor between two n-type semiconductors. The output electrical current between two terminals is controlled by applying a small input current at the third terminal. The proposed effort combines the latest innovations in device designs/process technology, bulk GaN substrate technology, and innovative metal-organic chemical vapor deposition epitaxial growth techniques. If the proposed design concept is successful, it will enable three-fold improvement of power density in high voltage devices, and provide a low-cost solution for mass market power conversion. Moreover, the device can be processed with significantly lower process complexity and cost, as compared to competing silicon carbide and GaN device technologies. GeneSiC will focus on all device development tasks while its partner, Adroit Materials, will focus on the GaN epitaxial growth on bulk GaN substrates, as well as detailed materials characterization according to specifications generated by GeneSiC.

George Washington University

Micro-Scale Ultra-High Efficiency CPV/Diffuse Hybrid Arrays Using Transfer Printing

George Washington University (GWU) and their partners will develop a hybrid CPV concept that combines highly efficient multi-junction solar cells and low-cost single-junction solar cells. When direct sunlight hits the lens array, it is concentrated 1000-fold and is focused onto the multi-junction solar cells. Diffuse light not captured in this process is instead captured by the low-cost single-junction solar cells. The module design is lightweight, fewer than 10 mm thick, and has a profile similar to conventional FPV. Moreover, the combination of the two types of cells increases efficiency. GWU will use its expertise in micro-transfer printing to fabricate and assemble the multi-junction cells. This process will reduce manufacturing costs and further increase efficiency.

George Washington University

Transfer Printed Virtual Substrates

George Washington University (GWU) will develop a new technique to produce commercial III-V substrates called Transfer Printed Virtual Substrates (TPVS). To reduce costs, the team proposes using a single source substrate to grow numerous virtual substrate layers. The team will use an enabling technology, called micro-transfer printing (MTP), to transfer the layers from the source substrate, in the form of many microscale "chiplets," and deposit them onto a low-cost handle (silicon, for example). Once printed, the clean surfaces of the MTP process allows each chiplet to complete the epitaxial growth process on the lower cost substrate after having been seeded from the initial source and having sacrificial layers in between to release the chiplets from the source wafer. The TPVS process can potentially yield tens to hundreds virtual substrates from a single source wafer. Any micro/nanoscale device grown on III-V substrates, such as sensors, detectors, lasers, power electronics, and high-speed transistors, will experience significant cost reductions as a direct result of TPVS deployment. TPVS can also reduce the demand for rare minerals used for a wide range of critical technological applications due to the greater efficiency with which each initial source substrate is utilized.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Prosumer-Based Distributed Autonomous Cyber-Physical Architecture for Ultra-Reliable Green Electricity Networks

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a decentralized, autonomous, internet-like control architecture and control software system for the electric power grid. Georgia Tech's new architecture is based on the emerging concept of electricity prosumers--economically motivated actors that can produce, consume, or store electricity. Under Georgia Tech's architecture, all of the actors in an energy system are empowered to offer associated energy services based on their capabilities. The actors achieve their sustainability, efficiency, reliability, and economic objectives, while contributing to system-wide reliability and efficiency goals. This is in marked contrast to the current one-way, centralized control paradigm.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Highly Laminated, High-Saturation-Flux-Density Magnetic Cores for On-Chip Inductors in Power Converter Applications

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is creating compact, low-profile power adapters and power bricks using materials and tools adapted from other industries and from grid-scale power applications. Adapters and bricks convert electrical energy into usable power for many types of electronic devices, including laptop computers and mobile phones. These converters are often called wall warts because they are big, bulky, and sometimes cover up an adjacent wall socket that could be used to power another electronic device. The magnetic components traditionally used to make adapters and bricks have reached their limits; they can't be made any smaller without sacrificing performance. Georgia Tech is taking a cue from grid-scale power converters that use iron alloys as magnetic cores. These low-cost alloys can handle more power than other materials, but the iron must be stacked in insulated plates to maximize energy efficiency. In order to create compact, low-profile power adapters and bricks, these stacked iron plates must be extremely thin--only hundreds of nanometers in thickness, in fact. To make plates this thin, Georgia Tech is using manufacturing tools used in microelectromechanics and other small-scale industries.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

A Novel Intermediate-Temperature Fuel Cell Tailored for Efficient Utilization of Methane

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a fuel cell that operates at temperatures less than 500°C by integrating nanostructured materials into all cell components. This is a departure from traditional fuel cells that operate at much lower or much higher temperatures. By developing multifunctional anodes that can efficiently reform and directly process methane, this fuel cell will allow for efficient use of methane. Additionally, the Georgia Tech team will develop nanocomposite electrolytes to reduce cell temperature without sacrificing system performance. These technological advances will enable an efficient, intermediate-temperature fuel cell for distributed generation applications.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

High-Efficiency Solar Fuels Reactor Concept

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a high-efficiency concentrating solar receiver and reactor for the production of solar fuels. The team will develop a system that uses liquid metal to capture and transport heat at much higher temperatures compared to state-of-the-art concentrating solar power facilities. This high temperature system will be combined with the team's novel reactor to produce solar fuels that allow the flexibility to store and transport solar energy for later use or for immediate power production. Higher temperatures should result in much higher efficiencies and therefore lower costs of produced fuel or electricity. Additionally, plant operators would have the flexibility to match electricity or fuel production with the changing market demand to improve the cost effectiveness of the plant.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Power Generation Using Anchored, Buoyancy-Induced Columnar Vortices: The Solar Vortex (SoV)

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a method to capture energy from wind vortices that form from a thin layer of solar-heated air along the ground. "Dust devils" are a random and intermittent example of this phenomenon in nature. Naturally, the sun heats the ground creating a thin air layer near the surface that is warmer than the air above. Since hot air rises, this layer of air will naturally want to rise. The Georgia Tech team will use a set of vanes to force the air to rotate as it rises, forming an anchored columnar vortex that draws in additional hot air to sustain itself. Georgia Tech's technology uses a rotor and generator to produce electrical power from this rising, rotating air similar to a conventional wind turbine. This solar-heated air, a renewable energy resource, is broadly available, especially in the southern U.S. Sunbelt, yet has not been utilized to date. This technology could offer more continuous power generation than conventional solar PV or wind. Georgia Tech's technology is a, low-cost, scalable approach to electrical power generation that could create a new class of renewable energy ideally suited for arid low-wind regions.

Glint Photonics, Inc.

Self-Tracking Concentrator Photovoltaics

Glint Photonics is developing an inexpensive solar concentrating PV (CPV) module that tracks the sun's position over the course of the day to channel sunlight into PV materials more efficiently. Conventional solar concentrator technology requires complex moving parts to track the sun's movements. In contrast, Glint's inexpensive design can be mounted in a stationary configuration and adjusts its properties automatically in response to the solar position. By embedding this automated tracking function within the concentrator, Glint's design enables CPV modules to use traditional mounting technology and techniques, reducing installation complexity and cost. These self-tracking concentrators can significantly decrease the cost of solar power modules by enabling high efficiency while eliminating the additional costs of precision trackers and specialized mounting hardware. The concentrator itself is designed to be manufactured at extremely low-cost due to low material usage and compatibility with high-speed fabrication techniques. Glint's complete module costs are estimated to be $0.35/watt-peak.

Glint Photonics, Inc.

Stationary Wide-Angle Concentrator PV System

Glint Photonics in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), will develop a stationary wide-angle concentrator (SWAC) PV system. The SWAC concentrates light onto multi-junction solar cells, which efficiently convert sunlight into electrical energy. A sheet of arrayed PV cells moves passively within the module to maximize sunlight capture throughout the day. Two innovations allow this tracking to occur smoothly and without the expense or complexity of an active control system or a mechanical tracker. First, a fluidic suspension mechanism enables nearly frictionless movement of the sheet embedded in the module. Second, a thermal-gradient-driven alignment mechanism uses a tiny fraction of the collected energy to drive the movement of the sheet and keep it precisely aligned. Glint will develop the novel optical and fluidic components of the SWAC, while NREL will develop custom multi-junction solar cells for the prototype modules.

GridBright, Inc.

A Standards-Based Intelligent Repositorty for Collaborative Grid Model Management

GridBright and Utility Integration Solutions (UISOL, a GE Company) will develop a power systems model repository based on state-of-the-art open-source software. The models in this repository will be used to facilitate testing and adoption of new grid optimization and control algorithms. The repository will use field-proven open-source software and will be made publicly available in the first year of the project. Key features of the repository include an advanced search capability to support search and extraction of models based on key research characteristics, faster model upload and download times, and the ability to support thousands of users. The team will establish a long-term strategy for managing the repository that will allow its operation to continue after its project term with ARPA-E ends.

Halotechnics, Inc.

Advanced Molten Glass for Heat Transfer and Thermal Energy Storage

Halotechnics is developing a high-temperature thermal energy storage system using a new thermal-storage and heat-transfer material: earth-abundant and low-melting-point molten glass. Heat storage materials are critical to the energy storage process. In solar thermal storage systems, heat can be stored in these materials during the day and released at night--when the sun is not out--to drive a turbine and produce electricity. In nuclear storage systems, heat can be stored in these materials at night and released to produce electricity during daytime peak-demand hours. Halotechnics new thermal storage material targets a price that is potentially cheaper than the molten salt used in most commercial solar thermal storage systems today. It is also extremely stable at temperatures up to 1200°C--hundreds of degrees hotter than the highest temperature molten salt can handle. Being able to function at high temperatures will significantly increase the efficiency of turning heat into electricity. Halotechnics is developing a scalable system to pump, heat, store, and discharge the molten glass. The company is leveraging technology used in the modern glass industry, which has decades of experience handling molten glass.

Harvard University

Small Organic Molecule Based Flow Battery for Grid Storage

Harvard University is developing an innovative grid-scale flow battery to store electricity from renewable sources. Flow batteries store energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container, permitting larger amounts of stored energy at lower cost per kWh. Harvard is designing active material for a flow battery that uses small, inexpensive organic molecules in aqueous electrolyte. Relying on low-cost organic materials, Harvard's innovative storage device concept would yield one or more systems that may be developed by their partner, Sustainable Innovations, LLC, into viable grid-scale electrical energy storage systems.

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