Power System Design is Changing Fast

For the past month I have been working with Vicor’s Applications team to prepare presentation material for a webinar discussing bi-directional DC circuits and potential applications.  The idea of a converter that operates in both directions, acting as if it was a “DC Transformer” is a new idea, yet it is already having a huge impact on the way many different power systems are designed.  Almost overnight, this technology has been adopted by power system engineers.

I think a major event is imminent in the realm of power distribution.  For over a century, AC power has been the dominant architecture for distributing power in our societies, but the world’s race to renewables is putting pressure on the status quo.

If most of your power comes as DC, what sense does it make to convert it over to AC, only to then be converted back to DC for use in the multiplicity of electronic loads of modern society?  And just like bi-directional power flow, the components to enable cost-effective DC power distribution at higher voltages have only recently been developed.

I remember taking a Geology course.  Of course, so many years later I don’t remember the various types of rock formations or the finer points of using a Bunton compass, but I do remember learning that many of the Earths most dramatic visual features (canyons, cliffs, gorges, etc) were created not by small drip-drip changes over millions of years, but by cataclysmic weather events that happened over a few hours or days.  This taught me a valuable lesson: big changes often happen very quickly.

Power system design is at an exciting point in its history. The idea that power only flows from source to load will be eliminated by bi-directional conversion that allows energy to be harvested to increase efficiency. Equally we will see the rapid disappearance of AC for power distribution within systems: 380V will be the standard for anything greater than a few yards and 48V for most common busses.

Vicor’s Sine Amplitude Converter topology is the dramatic force that is driving these changes.  This unique converter topology enables of family of products unlike any other components available in the market.  This is particularly true in the realm of bi-directional operation, a unique feature of this topology, but it is also the technology that enables us to deliver high-performance bus converters for 380 V rails.

It’s an exciting time to be a power engineer.  It’s not just components that are changing: the architectures that are used to distribute power are undergoing an unprecedented revolution that is driven by new technology.  The developers who take advantage of the new landscape will be able to design power systems that deliver unprecedented performance and value to their companies.


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