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.
If successful, GE would reduce the complexity of electricity transmission and enable the efficient, low-cost integration of distributed renewable energy sources into the grid.
A more efficient, reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions from failure, natural disasters, or attack.
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.
This project will result in increased domestic renewable electricity generation that will help the U.S. meet its growing electricity demand.