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ECE joins White House energy reduction initiative

Reprinted from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering website.

The Ohio State University is one of just two universities picked by the White House to cut waste and help double national energy productivity by 2030.

A total of $22 million in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Next Generation Electric Machines” research awards went out this month to fund projects aimed at reworking the way the United States uses energy on a large-scale basis. The initiative comes via the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Ohio State electrical and computer engineering professor Longya Xu and his team are now in negotiations to receive approximately $3 million in funding over the next three years to help cut the cost of high-energy consuming industries, such as transporting fossil fuels and industrial-scale compression systems.

Xu has taught and researched electrical power systems at Ohio State since 1990. Acting as the Principal Investigator, in 2010 he helped establish the Center for High Performance Power Electronics (CHPPE),  a $9-million Ohio State research center.

Ironically, Xu said, his team’s initial DOE submission paper almost never made it past the front door, after it was recommended they withdraw their work. Unfazed, he said, the team submitted their project anyway. It soon rose to the top.

“It helps to have confidence in your research,” Xu said.

Over the next 15 years, the DOE program aims to cut national energy waste by as much as 30 percent, plus reduce outputs used in the chemical and petroleum refining industries, natural gas infrastructure, and general industry compressor applications (HVAC, refrigeration, and wastewater pumps) by up to 50 percent.

Xu and his team are focused on designing, testing, and demonstrating a “high performance, high-speed drive capable of integrating into electric grids while avoiding energy losses associated with power transformers.”

According to the DOE, if successful, Xu’s project will significantly advance transformer-less drive technologies for a range of industries and motor applications.

Aside from Ohio State, the five projects chosen are expected to further develop wide-band gap technology nationwide. Wide-band gap technology controls or converts electrical energy into usable power, allowing systems to operate at higher temperatures, voltages and frequencies over silicon-based technologies. The end result is more durable and reliable. It can also eliminate up to 90 percent of power losses in current electric conversion technology.

"The industrial sector uses more than 30 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. and is projected to use more, not less, energy over the next twenty five years," Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson said. "Replacing less efficient industrial motor systems with more advanced, variable-speed direct-drive systems and incorporating recent power electronics advances, such as wide-band gap semiconductors, could reduce industrial electricity consumption by 2 to 4 percent, leading to up to $2.7 billion in annual energy savings, reducing up to 27 million tons of carbon emissions each year, and creating high-quality manufacturing jobs.”

Other entities picked to receive funding include Calnetix Technologies, General Electric Company, the Eaton Corporation and Clemson University.

The overall effort is part of the DOE’s broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to increase American competitiveness in the production of clean energy products and boost U.S. manufacturing competitiveness by increasing energy productivity.

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