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Expert Speaks | January 2018

Picking up pace with technological changes

<span style="font-weight: bold;">With increasing usage of power electronics and UPS, among other devices, the sector is poised for further advancements.</span> <p></p> <p> Power electronics started with the development of the mercury arc rectifier. Invented by Peter Cooper Hewitt in 1902, it was used to convert alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC). From the 1920s on, research continued on applying thyratrons and grid-controlled mercury arc valves to power transmission. Uno Lamm developed a mercury valve with grading electrodes making them suitable for high-voltage, direct- current (HVDC) power transmission. In 1933, selenium rectifiers were invented. In 1947, the bipolar point-contact transistor was invented by Walter H Brattain and John Bardeen under the direction of William Shockley at Bell Labs. In 1948, Shockley's invention of the bipolar junction transistor (BJT) improved the stability and performance of transistors, and reduced costs. By the 1950s, higher power semiconductor diodes became available and started replacing vacuum tubes. In 1956, the silicon controlled rectifier (SCR) was introduced by General Electric, greatly increasing the range of power electronics applications. By the 1960s, the improved switching speed of bipolar junction transistors had allowed for high frequency DC/DC converters. In 1976, power MOSFETs became commercially available. In 1982, the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) was introduced.</p> <p>Power Electronics is a technology which deals with control and conversion of electrical power with high-efficiency switching mode electronic devices for a wide range of applications like heating and lighting control, DC and AC power supplies etc. It is a new kind of revolution in the power sector that aims for energy conservation, renewable energy systems, bulk-utility energy storage, and electric and hybrid vehicles.</p> <p>Power electronics technology has seen a lot of advancements in the recent times and has emerged as a high-tech frontier in power engineering. It has impacted our lives to an extent that we use power electronics in our day-to-day activities without even realising it. Electrical energy in itself cannot be consumed until it is converted into forms like motion, light, sound and heat. Power electronic devices like switches, or amplifiers, AC/DC convertors enable conversion of electrical energy to tangible energy enabling consumers to use stable power in air conditioner, UPS etc. </p> <p>The power electronic system has evolved over the years to ensure there is maximum efficiency, reliability and availability at minimum cost. The sector has experienced steady growth. This growth will play a significant role in solving or reducing the problems like climate change or global warming. </p> <p>One of the devices using power electronics extensively is Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) system. UPS is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power to a load when the input power source or mains power fails. A UPS differs from an auxiliary or emergency power system or standby generator in that it will provide near-instantaneous protection from input power interruptions, by supplying energy stored in batteries, supercapacitors, or flywheels with the required power quality. The three general topologies of modern UPS systems are Off-line, Line-interactive and On-line. </p> <p>The first UPS system were Rotary in design with rotating motor generators (MG sets) used to provide a stable power supply for communication equipment and information processing systems, including computers. Subsequently, commercial static UPS, were made with a thyristor. During 1970s, a number of technologies were developed that further enhanced the reliability of UPS systems. It also allowed for the development of a high-speed thyristor interrupter that used a parallel redundant system made up of several UPS units and made possible the development of high-performance, highly reliable system control technologies. Thanks to the development of power semiconductor devices, UPS systems realised high efficiency, high functionality and high reliability, and responding well to the needs of society. </p> <p>When these static UPSs began appearing in the seventies, they utilised an internal transformer to step up the output voltage to the critical load - not only as commonly believed, to provide galvanic isolation. Transformer-based systems were very widely produced, especially for high power protection applications. However, advances in power semiconductor technology, particularly the introduction of the IGBT device has made transformer-less UPS a viable proposition. </p> <p>In 2000's, the transformer-less topology has largely taken over from traditional transformer-based designs, because of the many advantages it offers. Above all, it had several benefits like improved efficiency from a considerably smaller and lighter form factor, greater efficiency, higher input power factor, lower input current harmonic distortion, reduced capital and operating costs, lower audible noise and enhanced battery life. </p> <p>As UPS installation's operational life and scalability became important factors, the modular topology emerged as a perfect solution for those needs. Modular topology provides secure power with high availability and efficiency as a cost-effective solution. Although the initial capital cost of a modular system was typically 10 - 15 per cent above that of the standalone equivalent, the picture changes when 'total cost of ownership' is taken into account. Improved energy efficiency and other savings mean that the modular system's additional cost will be recovered within its first year of operation.</p> <p>The latest UPS systems are intend to satisfy both user and installers by providing ease of maintenance and safety, capital preservation and reducing operating expenses. They have a three-level IGBT inverter design that helps to improve the inverter efficiency and overall efficiency, thus reducing the operational expenses. High-input power factor and low- input current distortion reduces the cost of electrical infrastructure. Multi DSP controller in these products helps the UPS to respond faster. Intended for use in large data centres and co-location facilities, they solutions between 10 kVA to 4.8 MVA requirements. IT/ telecom, healthcare companies require these high power quality UPS systems to ensure continuity of their operations. </p> <p>The power electronic segment, especially the UPS segment, has witnessed some tough years in the past. Rapid change of technology, lack of standardisation, pricing pressure had put pressure on the industry as a whole. However, rapid development of IT sector, digital penetration in India, focus of renewable energy, advent of electric vehicles and, in general, increase in consumer awareness would ensure rapid growth of the power electronic market in general, and the UPS market in particular. </p> <p>The factors that will be driving the UPS market growth in India would be digitalisation activities across sectors, including the government's Digital India initiative, Smart Cities initiative, the need for clean power across to industries and the penetration of sensitive electronic gadgets in homes. Even the need for clean and uninterrupted power at home, various infrastructure projects, the growth of surveillance needs, distance education projects and digitalisation of entertainment, will drive the growth of the UPS industry in India. </p> <p> The power electronic industry is picking up an accelerating pace with technological changes. There is a need to keep the standards up to date. The standards are vital to ensure the products conform to standard levels of functional performance, safety and reliability. One has to ensure that their product adheres to global standards of International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and follow their testing specifications. </p> <p>The Indian power sector is one of the most diversified in the world and is undergoing a significant change that has redefined the industry outlook, and so is the power electronic segment. We strongly believe, the industry is poised for a robust growth in the coming three-five years. </p> <p> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Author: Palash Nandy, Chief Commercial Officer, Numeric India</span></p>
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