Power management company Eaton joined the Low-Voltage (LV) Consortium of FEN Research Campus in mid-May as a new industrial partner dedicated to innovative energy projects. Research Campus Flexible Electrical Networks (FEN) is an association of institutes of RWTH Aachen University and industrial partners dedicated to promoting an efficient exchange of knowledge in order to successfully master the various challenges of a future energy supply.
Eaton will contribute to the research and development activities of the LV Consortium in which 13 industrial partners and 15 institutes of RWTH Aachen University are working together on future power grids. Individuals from Eaton European Innovation Centre, power distribution, energy storage, industrial controls and protection, eMobility and power quality divisions will come together to tackle one of the most important topics in energy today.
REM spoke to Oleksiy Chumak, Lead Engineer - Power Systems, Eaton, to find out more about the collaboration between the two organisations.
Can you share some further details on the Low-Voltage (LV) Consortium at FEN Research Campus
The Low Voltage group at the FEN Research Campus is designed for the research and development of DC (direct current) distribution, which Eaton is part of. DC is another way of electrical energy distribution. Currently it is mostly used in power distribution inside devices. We are also able to connect devices externally with DC too. DC distribution provides higher flexibility than common AC types of grid. This flexibility is of great importance in systems which use a high amount of renewable and distributed energy resources (DER). It is this technology which will enable the next generation of DER integration, grid intelligence and electricity safety.
How is Eaton joining in with this?
Eaton is joining the consortium as a full partner, which involves collaboration with university and industrial partners, access to laboratory and research facilities of the FEN, access to publications and votes in steering committees for the direction of research direction. Moreover, there is intensive communication with the MV (medium voltage) group which gives us a broader view on the DC distribution system, allows us to understand the opportunities and limitations coming from technological and business areas of MV and LV and allows us to harmonise on approaches.
13 industrial partners and 15 institutes of RWTH Aachen University are working together on this, you say, what is the ultimate objective of this programme?
DC technology, although it is old concept, brings new opportunities in electrical distribution, power management, communication and business models for electricity. Eaton has been doing research and development in this area for some time but collaborating together with partners increases the research power we have in this expansive area of technology. Having business partners allows us to discover more technologies, see the bigger picture, leverage synergies, promote the adoption of technologies and agree on codes and regulations – defining common rules.
What are the potential benefits for Eaton and its customers?
Being a leader in the power distribution sector is a key part of Eaton’s strategy. By joining FEN we can ensure that we are collaborating with world class specialists focusing on the most pioneering technology of power distribution. Customers can be sure that Eaton keeps providing them with innovative solutions, reliability and safety. From our work with FEN we expect to see an increase in the development of this technology, a deeper understanding of technological capabilities and requirements which reduces the risk for the adoption of the technology.
Where will the results/outcomes of this be applied and how?
This collaboration is primarily a European initiative, and the Eaton European Innovation Centre in Prague will lead the partnership making sure multiple Eaton Research and Development (R & D) units in Europe are engaged. Therefore, a primary introduction of the technology can be expected in the EU market, but as Eaton is a global company, there will be a strong business case for introducing the products in other regions.
What kind of financial and carbon savings could be made from this?
There are a number of different carbon savings to be made including:
The maximised use of energy generated from renewable resources due to the flexibility of the DC grid
The improved efficiency of energy conversion due to the reduction in the number of conversion steps.
Conversion is required for the integration of renewable sources, DERs and for many appliances like electronics, driving equipment, lighting, etc.
Fewer materials such as metals and plastics are needed to manufacture the components, as the power conversion components and units are much smaller than for AC grids.
The saving of carbon also leads to a financial saving. There are also other benefits such as improved safety and the ability to manage the energy supply with flexibility, predictability and connectivity.
How do you expect things to develop in the future?
It is important to understand that it is not only electrical installation that is changing. It is new types of grid operation, code, communication, protection and even business models. DC grids go hand in hand with grid intelligence:
Optimisations of control and power management including generation and consuming;
Coordination between consumer, and provider, microgrid and central grid;
New types of protection and next level of safety of electricity ideally as safe as child toy.
DC distribution brings a new age of technological advancement in energy supply which can be compared to the invention of the internet. Eaton is proud to be a driver of this change.