Hitachi ABB partners NTU Singapore on smart grid research

  • April 19, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Hitachi ABB Power Grids and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore are working together on solid-state transformer (SST) technology for smart grid development.

The project is being led by the Energy Research Institute at NTU and is supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) in Singapore.

The project is part of the Singapore government’s Energy Grid 2.0 initiative aimed at shaping the grid system and transforming how energy is managed by consolidating multiple energy sources into a single intelligent network that is more efficient, sustainable and resilient.

“As a global technology leader, we are delighted to partner with NTU in this cross-stakeholder collaboration project, bringing together government, academia and industry in an effort to accelerate energy transition and enhance quality of life,” said Gerhard Salge, chief technology officer at Hitachi ABB Power Grids.

Transformers are a key component of electrical systems found across the power value chain. They are electrical devices that transfer electrical energy from one circuit to another through the process of electromagnetic induction and are mostly deployed to step up or step down voltage levels between circuits at nominal frequency.

SSTs incorporate power semiconductor components, control circuits and high-frequency transformers, offering bi-directional power flow control, harmonics reduction and other benefits. They allow conversion from AC to DC, DC to AC and DC to DC on different voltage levels. They are designed to support power system transformation towards more flexible AC and DC mixed system configurations, facilitating the integration of renewable energy sources close to DC loads.

This new grid architecture can also benefit applications such as data centres, wind farms, solar plants, hydrogen generation and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The partnership also hopes to contribute to land scarcity challenges faced by Singapore. As a small island nation, the country has always sought innovations to stretch its land options, while balancing commercial needs and sustainability.

“The SSTs are multifunctional and will allow users flexible control on the amount of power that is distributed to networks,” said NTU’s senior vice president for research Lam Khin Yong. “By doing away with multiple separate equipment required by current conventional transformers, we also save on land-use, making the SST attractive for a more efficient electricity grid.

“One of the key objectives in partnering with Hitachi ABB Power Grids for this project is to take the technology to the next level – from lab to real world applications. Both organisations have considerable knowledge and experience in the development of SST technology and we are confident that this partnership will catalyse commercial deployment to support a sustainable energy future.”

Beyond the SST project, Hitachi ABB Power Grids and NTU have also been cooperating in several areas of advancement in grid technologies, including energy storage systems and e-mobility.

“Singapore is at the forefront when it comes to the sustainable development of smarter cities and the power grid is an integral contributor,” said Nirupa Chander, managing director of Hitachi ABB Power Grids in Singapore. “We are proud to work with NTU and NRF on this project of national and international relevance.”

Yeoh Lean Weng, a senior director at NRF, added: “The partnership between NTU and Hitachi ABB Power Grids is one of many examples that demonstrates the international recognition our local institutions receive for scientific excellence. Singapore is committed to supporting cutting edge research that not only meets our national needs, but through wider partnerships, advances the benefits beyond our shores.”

Hitachi ABB Power Grids has a combined heritage of almost 250 years, employing around 36,000 people in 90 countries. Headquartered in Switzerland, the business serves utility, industry and infrastructure users across the value chain, and emerging areas such as sustainable mobility, smart cities, energy storage and data centres.

NTU Singapore has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the engineering, business, science, humanities, arts and social sciences. It also has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.