As the energy industry shifts toward renewables, engineers are looking to improve systems that feed energy from solar and wind farms to the electric grid. Researchers at the University of Arkansas have made some progress, inventing a high-frequency matrix converter to simplify the process of turning renewable energy into electricity.
The main feature of the system is the ability to simultaneously accept energy from a variety of sources, including solar panels and wind turbines, and convert it for use in the electrical grid. This sets it apart from current technologies, which are only able to convert electrical input from a single source without sacrificing efficiency.
Because different harvesting methods produce varying levels of direct current, researchers Joseph Carr and Juan Balda invented a system that could consolidate these inputs into a stable alternating current. Using a multiple square-wave-input design, the system converts energy from different sources without the use of specialized transformers.
The system could be used to replace the large transformers currently used in renewable energy networks. Furthermore, it could provide a simplified alternative to the current multiphase system, reducing the costs of development and maintenance. The U.S. Department of Energy pursued and was granted a patent for the technology at the end of March. It is now seeking licensing opportunities for the new power converter.