Drives and Controls Magazine

Power module project yields its first fruits

01 November, 2000

Power module project yields its first fruits

A collaborative project to develop power electronic building blocks (PEBBs) that could help to cut costs in a variety of industrial, utility and military applications, has yielded its first product - a 9MVA PEBB. The $14m project, involving ABB and the US Office of Naval Research (ONR), aims to develop power electronic and control modules that will serve as building blocks for equipment such as drives, inverters, frequency changers and power quality products.

One year into the programme, ABB Automation has announced the development of the 9MVA PEBB and control platform that will be the core of a range of ABB products. The first two of these - an 18MVA frequency converter for rail applications, and a dynamic voltage restorer (DVR) to protect sensitive plants from power quality fluctuations - have already been built and tested. Further products are due by the middle of 2001.

Specific applications for PEBBs will be determined by the way they are interconnected and configured using the control software. The use of standard, compact modules, should cut product development times and costs. Technical attractions include low stray inductances and switching losses.

The PEBB concept was originally devised by the ONR which sees the technology as way of enhancing the survivability of naval vessels and bases. For example, the modules could be used to build electrically reconfigurable ships. "If an enemy strike destroys one portion of a ship`s electrical system, the system can be reconfigured automatically to maintain power to other areas," explains Peter Reichmeider, director of engineering at ABB Power Distribution Solutions. "PEBBs will play a vital role as the switches necessary for such an application."

Work on the PEBB programme is being carried out both in the US and at ABB`s Power Electronics Systems operation in Switzerland.