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Publication Title | Power Electronics in Wind Turbine Systems

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Text | Power Electronics in Wind Turbine Systems | 002

Power electronics has changed rapidly during the last thirty years and the number of applications has been increasing, mainly due to the developments of the semiconductor devices and the microprocessor technology. For both cases higher performance is steadily given for the same area of silicon, and at the same time they are continuously reducing the price. Fig. 1 shows a typical power electronic system consisting of a power converter, a load/source and a control unit.
transistors on a commercial basis with a competitive price will still take some years to appear on the market.
Appliance Industry Communication
Wind Photo-voltaic Fuel cell Other sources
Power flow
2-3 2-3
Reference (local/centralized)
200 150 100
50 0
120 100 80 60 40 20 0
Power converter
Fig. 1. Power electronic system with the grid, load/source, power onverter and control.
The power converter is the interface between the load/generator and the grid. The power may flow in both directions, of course, dependent on topology and applications. Three important issues are of concern using such a system. The first one is reliability; the second is efficiency and the third one is cost. For the moment the cost of power semiconductor devices is decreasing 2-5 % every year for the same output performance and the price pr. kW for a power electronic system is also decreasing. A high competitive power electronic system is adjustable speed drives (ASD) and the trend of weight, size, number of components and functions in a standard Danfoss Drives A/S frequency converter can be seen in Fig. 2. It clearly shows that power electronic conversion is shrinking in volume and weight. It also shows that more integration is an important key to be competitive as well as more functions become available in such a product.
The key driver of this development is that the power electronic device technology is still undergoing important progress. Fig. 3 shows different key power devices and the areas where the development is still going on.
The only power device which is not under development any more is the silicon-based power bipolar transistor because MOS-gated devices are preferable in the sense of easy control. The breakdown voltage and/or current carrying capability of the components are also continuously increasing. Also important research is going on to change the material from silicon to silicon carbide. This may dramatically increase the power density of power converters but silicon carbide based
Fig. 2. Development of a 4 kW standard industrially adjustable speed drive during the last 25 years [5].
a) Relative number of components and functions b)Relative size and weight
Silicon carbide FETs MOS-gated thyristors
Insulated-gate bipolar transistors
Bipolar transistors
Trench Coolmos
1950 ?60 ?70
3. Development of power semiconductor devices in the past and
in the future [34]
?80 ?90
2000 2006 2010
Components Functions
Load / generator
Size (volume) Weight
Relative unit
1968 1983
1988 1993

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