The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced up to $15 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) programme, Building Reliable Electronics to Achieve Kilovolt Effective Ratings Safely (BREAKERS). BREAKERS projects will develop designs for medium voltage, direct current (MVDC) circuit breakers for a variety of applications.
BREAKERS projects will assist the creation of new devices capable of better securing the grid by eliminating electrical faults, improving efficiency and reaction times while potentially enabling greater proliferation of renewable resources. Fields that could benefit include surge protection, transportation electrification, grid distribution, intermittent power interconnection, and offshore oil and gas production.
Dan Brouillette, Deputy Secretary of Energy, said: “Before it arrives to the consumer, electricity goes through multiple conversion steps, and this infrastructure must be protected by circuit breakers that keep the grid safe from disruptions and failures. For power travelling over DC at higher voltages, this represents a serious challenge. BREAKERS teams will meet this challenge by designing new, fast-acting circuit breakers that protect our grid, improve its efficiency, and open the door to new ways to get this vital resource to American homes, businesses, and industry.”
Breakers at high DC voltages are currently prone to electrical arcing, which can lead to fire or breaker failure. MVDC circuit breakers could enable significant improvements in the US electrical system.