A Look at Solid State Transformers

In a few years, one of the primary components of the grid is going to become downright portable.

A number of companies are working on technologies that could replacetraditional transformers — large pieces of industrial equipmentfashioned from groups of components for raising or lowering electricalvoltage — with transformers that largely consist of semiconductors oncircuit boards. This process could begin to pave the way for a number of improvements in the way that power gets delivered. Integrating andmanaging renewable power and electrical storage could become easier.Microgrids could be deployed much more rapidly.

Grid efficiency could conceivably be increased by up to 8 percent to 10 percent because of lower conversion and transmission losses. 

"That’s ten percent less power that you have to generate," said JohnPalmour, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer for Power and RF atCree, which produces silicon carbide semiconductors. "We can replace an8,000-pound transformer in a substation running at 60 hertz and replaceit with one running at 20 kilohertz in a tiny design. […] We canshrink it down to [the size of] a suitcase."

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