Power electronics controls 80% of the electricity being used today.
Using only the technological improvements already on the
drawing board, the world's energy consumption could be reduced by 30 %
Power electronics is the engineering discipline used for the conversion of electrical energy from one form to another.
There is a very large market for power electronics. World sales currently exceed USD 60 billion per year, and affect hardware sales of over USD 1 trillion. There are therefore great potential benefits in developing the technology. It gives industry the opportunity to supply products which are more efficient, more durable and smaller, and which allow for more advanced control and monitoring.
The potential environmental benefits are also great. Power electronics controls 80 % of the electricity being used today. Using only the technological improvements already on the drawing board, the world's energy consumption could be reduced by 30%.
Strong Danish position
Danish industry has a strong position in the market for electrical energy systems. The industry has a high growth rate due to rapid technological advances and strong interest in improving efficiency and conserving the environment.
Danish industrial companies have been good at adapting international standards into their products, as the majority are sold in export markets. For example, Denmark is home to Europe's largest manufacturer of motor drives, the world's largest producer of pumps with integrated motors and a development centre for the world's largest supplier of UPS systems.
The wind power industry is also dependent on power electronics. In 2014, wind turbines supplied 40 % of the electricity consumed in Denmark, and Danish wind turbine manufacturers account for 50 % of world wind turbine sales.
Power electronics requires a wide range of engineering disciplines for success. Danish engineers are renowned for their interdisciplinary approach and ability. Cooperation between industry and educational institutions is therefore very important, and this works well in Denmark.
Power electronics is key to improving energy efficiency and promoting a sustainable energy supply based on renewable energy. Power electronics enables:
efficient integration of wind and solar energy into the power grid
stabilisation of power grids with an increasing share of fluctuating sources of renewable energy
highly efficient variable speed motor drives
energy-efficient hybrid vehicles or fully electric vehicles with low emissions
energy-saving lighting technology
efficient recovery of braking energy
energy management for batteries
control of appliances and building management systems via the grid interface
Where is power electronics used?
Power electronics is used in the vast majority of products and systems today.
From wind turbines to LED bulbs. It helps ensure that the electricity has exactly the specifications required in each case. We have collected a number of examples illustrating how diverse the applications for power electronics are, and how important it therefore is.
Electricity is an ingenious source of energy, but transporting it is a challenge.
Power electronics can help here.
Storing electricity is another challenge where power electronics again comes into play.
Electricity comes in many forms – direct and alternating current, high and low voltage, high and low frequency. All forms have strengths and weaknesses and their areas of application. The challenge is that the power must be converted up and down and back and forth, depending on where and what it is being used for.
From 150 KV to 12 V
The turbines in a hydropower plant or a wind turbine create high voltage direct current. When this power is drawn into Energinet.dk's 150 kV grid it has to match precise specifications, and power electronics handles this transformation and ensures the specifications are met. From the main power grid, substations change the power to 60 kV, primary stations scale it down to 10 kV and distribution transformers then convert it to 400 V, which private households can use.
Many household appliances use 230 V AC power, but devices such as modern LED bulbs use around 12 V. Power electronics is therefore required which can change the electricity from 240 V to 12 V. This is called an LED driver. It is a small power electronics device – an integrated circuit inside the LED bulb which can keep the voltage level very constant.
Computers also need a voltage other than 240 V, and the dimmers for some living room lights need yet another voltage.
Some household appliances use direct current while most use alternating current, and this also requires a converter, which is more power electronics at work. Developing power electronics with a long lifetime, reliable operation, low power losses and minimal heat generation is something of an art.
There is a major focus today on renewable energy sources, but wind and solar energy production cannot be controlled in the same way as power produced using a turbine driven by fossil fuels. There is therefore a large and growing need to be able to store energy, and this also requires power electronics.
An ingenious energy source
Electricity is an ingenious source of energy overall, but it is a challenge to transport and store electricity, and to convert it to precisely the forms you need without excessive waste. This is what power electronics can help with.