The NSF IUCRC on GRid-connected Advanced Power Electronics (GRAPES) has been providing significant benefits to member companies and the nation's emerging electric power grid modernization efforts since 2009. GRAPES is advancing knowledge in grid-connected power electronics, producing much-needed talent for the industry, and developing world-first technologies that impact the electric power grid and other sectors where power electronics applications are expanding. The University of Arkansas (UA) and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM) are the two university sites of GRAPES that seek to achieve the mission of accelerating the adoption and insertion of power electronics into the grid, in order to improve system stability, flexibility, robustness, and economy. The primary broader impact is to touch the lives of all Americans with technologies that lead to a modernized, but equally reliable electric power grid that is able to more directly incorporate increased penetrations of renewable energy sources than before. Further impacts are to provide the highest quality, differentiable integrated engineering education and research experience to meet the emerging workforce and technical needs of the nation's energy industry. Collaborative research is conducted in teams that include professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and industry experts. Both GRAPES' sites have influence at many levels: high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, working professionals, minority and underrepresented groups, and member companies.
Application areas that GRAPES addresses include solid-state protection, power conditioning and conversion, interfacing renewables to the grid, and assessing the impacts and advantages of grid-connected power electronics. This work focuses on low-voltage (up to 480 V) and medium-voltage (up to 35 kV) areas that are most suitable for power electronics, therefore directly impacting distribution grids. Key focus areas are on distributed generation integration, AC and DC Microgrids, distribution and protection, high frequency magnetics, ancillary services, smart distribution, grid connected energy storage systems, and SiC-based converters. Fundamental technologies include power electronic packaging, control methods, gate drivers, and software tools that are robust and resilient in the presence of the high voltage and current conditions present in the grid. The UA and UWM sites provide complementary facilities and expertise. An example of a facility is the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission (NCREPT), a 6 MVA test facility capable of 15 kV testing of research prototypes as well as commercial grade power electronics. The facilities also include a 350 kVA microgrid system, center for sustainable electrical energy systems, energy storage systems and interface, test setups for high voltage wide band gap devices, and DC protection setups.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.