doe-logoUSA: The US Energy Department is offering up to $20m in funding to spur the development of variable speed drives.

The US government sees the replacement of less efficient fixed-speed motors and gearboxes with variable-speed direct-drive motor systems incorporating recent power electronics advances, such as wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, could help industry save on energy costs and improve their competitiveness.

According to the Energy Department, WBG components—which control or convert electrical energy into usable power—can operate at higher temperatures, voltages, and frequencies, and are more durable and reliable than silicon-based counterparts. They see the wider deployment of these electronics could save 2% to 4% in industry’s electricity consumption.

The Energy Department plans to select four to six projects, through the Next Generation Electric Machines: Megawatt Class Motors funding opportunity, that demonstrate the benefits of using WBG variable-speed drives. These projects are expected to target a 30% reduction in system losses and a 50% reduction in size for megawatt-scale motor and drive systems used in the chemical and petroleum refining industries, natural gas infrastructure, and general industry compressor applications like HVAC systems, refrigeration, and wastewater pumps.

The selected teams will develop integrated motor drive system components including: front end power processing units; medium voltage class WBG semiconductor-based variable-speed drives; high speed motors that can be directly coupled to appropriate industrial loads.

Learn more about this funding opportunity on the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Funding Opportunity Exchange.