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Dynamic Power Flow Controller

Varentec

Compact Dynamic Phase Angle Regulators for Transmission Power Routing

Graphic of Varentec's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$4,025,951
Location: 
Santa Clara, CA
Project Term: 
01/03/2012 to 05/31/2016
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Several emerging trends, including the rapid growth in renewable generation and greater emphasis on improving grid efficiency and resiliency, are leading to a critical need to modernize the way electricity is delivered from suppliers to consumers. Modernizing the grid's hardware and software could help reduce peak power demand, increase the use of renewable energy, save consumers money on their power bills, and reduce total energy consumption--among many other notable benefits.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Varentec is developing compact, low-cost transmission power controllers with fractional power rating for controlling power flow on transmission networks. The technology will enhance grid operations through improved use of current assets and by dramatically reducing the number of transmission lines that have to be built to meet increasing contributions of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. The proposed transmission controllers would allow for the dynamic control of voltage and power flow, improving the grid's ability to dispatch power in real time to the places where it is most needed. The controllers would work as fail-safe devices whereby the grid would be restored to its present operating state in the event of a controller malfunction instead of failing outright. The ability to affordably and dynamically control power flow with adequate fail-safe switchgear could open up new competitive energy markets which are not possible under the current regulatory structure and technology base.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Varentec's transmission controllers would allow the electric grid to dynamically adjust to changes in energy supply and demand--improving the efficiency of the grid and enabling renewable energy sources to continue supplying power.

Security: 

A more efficient, reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions from failure, natural disasters, or attack.

Environment: 

Enabling increased use of wind and solar power would result in a substantial decrease in carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.--40% of which are produced by electricity generation.

Economy: 

A more efficient and reliable grid would help protect U.S. businesses from costly power outages and brownouts that stop automated equipment, bring down factories, and crash computers.

Innovation Update: 
(As of May 2016) 
Varentec has developed a power converter which allows real-time redirection of current in power lines and offers opportunities to enhance grid utilization. The team’s device has been successfully demonstrated at distribution power levels and offers possible savings through deferred distribution system upgrade costs. Over time, implementation of power routing capability on the grid will improve the economic efficiency of wholesale markets. The policies and regulations underlying electricity markets today were written with the assumption that power cannot be stored or routed. With the new capabilities enabled by power flow devices, such as Varentec’s, power system optimization will become much more efficient and operators will be empowered with new options to ensure reliability. 
 
Under its ARPA-E award, Varentec has developed a low-cost, fractionally-rated power flow control device that uses controlled series voltage injections in series with transmission lines to control power flows. The team considered several possible configurations for the device, taking into account tradeoffs involving system cost, ease of installation and maintenance, size, efficiency, and scalability to high voltages. In the final design, the power electronics are connected near the neutral point of a power transformer. This greatly reduces the insulation requirements and lowers the overall cost of the equipment. The design also enables the device as a retrofit or as a new-build standalone device.
 
For a detailed assessment of the Varentec team's project and impact, please click here.
 
 
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Timothy Heidel
Project Contact: 
Anish Prasai
Partners
Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI)
Georgia Tech Research Corporation
SPX Transformer Solutions (Waukesha Electric Systems)
Release Date: 
9/29/2011