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Roll your own power projects from electronic blocks

01 November, 2000

Roll your own power projects from electronic blocks

A US firm has announced the development of a modular system for controlling and conditioning electric power which it hopes will create a standard for the power conversion industry. American Superconductor says that its PowerModule system can be used in many applications, including variable speed drives, power quality systems and drivetrains for electric vehicles.

"PowerModules are like building blocks that can be stacked and integrated to handle kilowatts to megawatts of power in a wide range of end-use applications," explains Greg Yurek, American Superconductor`s chief executive. "Programmability means that our standard building block can be used in many power applications, simply by changing the software that drives the module.

"Today we do this off a laptop computer; in future, we expect to do this over the internet to meet the changing needs of our customers," Yurek adds.

The technology appears to be similar to ABB`s Power Electronics Building Blocks although the modules are smaller, ranging in size from 60kW-1MW. The initial version is rated at 250kW.

The global market for power converters above 60kW is already worth more than $1,000m. American Superconductor believes that it can capture a large chunk of this business with its modules which it claims are the highest power density, lowest cost converters in this size range.

"If this market develops as we expect," says Yurek, "revenues from this business are expected to exceed $100m within three years."

The PowerModules have been developed by American Superconductor`s Integrated Electronics division and do not involve the use of superconducting materials.




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