|Fleadh||Electronics||Specialists in Green Power Electronics|
Challenges for the Future
It is now generally accepted that the Earth's temperature is increasing due mainly to global industrialisation and the spread of consumerism. The burning of fossil fuels to provide energy for transport, manufacturing, heating and powering appliances generates CO2 as a bi-product, a major greenhouse gas. Global warming will be a major threat in the future in terms of weather related disasters and flooding, and the resultant economic costs. That is why we need to strive towards reducing emissions and developing a low carbon economy in the future. Electronics engineering is the key technology that can help to achieve this goal.
The main goal in future energy generation is to find suitable supplies of electric power while keeping CO2 emissions low and not adversely affecting economic growth. Leaving aside the controversial issue of nuclear power, renewable energy technology offers the best prospect for the future. Wind power and solar power are maturing into cost effective technologies, while wave and tidal power have potential although great challenges lie ahead in developing this technology into a cost effective generator of energy. Large scale renewable energy farms have been built and many more are in the planning stage all over the world. On a smaller size scale, microgeneration has the potential to contribute significantly to the overall picture, and the technology is now available for individuals to lower their own carbon footprint by installing such systems in their homes. The key challenge here is to develop affordable systems which can harvest the available energy efficiently, and offer shorter payback times to the customer.
Wasting less power is another obvious way of contributing to a lower carbon economy. Most electrical/electronic appliances can be redesigned to be more energy efficient. Moving to variable speed brushless motor technologies will reduce the amount of power required under normal operation. More efficient switched mode power supplies will also help in achieving less energy waste, as well as designing systems with low standby energy needs. Power electronics is the key discipline which can improve energy efficiency by developing optimum circuit topologies, making use of the lowest loss electronic switches and improving the way the systems are controlled.
Lowering the Cost
Developing better power generators and electronic systems must be done with a view to keeping the costs down, otherwise take up of lower carbon contributing equipment will be slow. Although government subsidies could play apart in increasing the uptake of microgenerators etc., it is still important that the power electronics designer aims to develop the lowest cost technology available.
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