Yue Zhao, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Arkansas, has received $3.4 million to advance power electronics research on the nation’s electric grid.
The award includes about $2.8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and nearly $714,000 in matching funds from university and industry partners.
UA said the money will enable Zhao’s team “to continue developing a high-density, 300-kilowatt, silicon-carbide solar inverter, a critical power electronic device to link solar power arrays to the national power grid.”
Zhao’s technology aims to lower the cost of electricity produced by photovoltaic farms.
“Working with cutting-edge, silicon-carbide power electronics, our research team uses a holistic design approach to develop a solar inverter that will achieve higher efficiency and power density, an extended service life and lower long-term costs,” Zhao said in a news release.
Zhao’s solar inverter design would eliminate the need for a transformer, increases power density while decreasing size and installation and maintenance costs.
The U.S. Department of Energy expects to cut the cost of solar electricity by 50 percent by 2030 to enable greater adoption of solar energy. The UA said Zhao’s research could lead to the development of a commercial-scale, silicon-carbide solar inverter system.
Zhao’s team is developing the solar inverter at the UA’s National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission, 6-megawatt power electronics testing facility at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in Fayetteville.