Developing a New Generation of Energy Efficient Motors

electric motor

NEXT GENERATION ELECTRIC MACHINES

Department of Energy

AMO’s Next Generation Electric Machines (NGEM) program is an RD&D effort leveraging recent technology advancements in power electronics and electric motors to develop a new generation of energy efficient, high power density, high speed, integrated medium voltage (MV) drive systems for a wide variety of critical energy applications.

Improvements to industrial electric motor systems can be realized through the application of key enabling technologies, such as wide bandgap devices, advanced magnetic materials, improved insulation materials, aggressive cooling techniques, high speed bearing designs, and improved conductors or superconducting materials. The NGEM program will facilitate a step-change that enables more efficient use of electricity, as well as reduced drive system size and weight, developing lasting capabilities for motor material development and design that will reduce industry’s energy footprint and greenhouse gas emissions while supporting U.S. global competitiveness in clean energy products.

This RD&D effort consists of two separate funding opportunities so far and will leverage the work of the Department’s Power America Institute on WBG semiconductors. The funding opportunities and selected projects are listed below.

NGEM: MEGAWATT CLASS MOTORS

Five projects were selected in September 2015 with the goal of merging wide-bandgap (WBG) technology with advancements for large-scale motors. The projects will develop medium voltage integrated drive systems that leverage the benefits of wide bandgap devices with energy efficient, high speed, direct drive, megawatt class electric motors for efficiency and power density improvement in the chemical and petroleum refining industries, natural gas infrastructure, and general industry compressor applications like HVAC systems, refrigeration, and wastewater pumps. These application areas represent a significant number of motor installations, a large amount of electrical energy consumption, and significant opportunities for U.S. technology and manufacturing competitiveness. The aim of the projects is to reduce the size of megawatt-scale motors and drive systems by up to 50 percent and cut energy waste by as much as 30 percent.

NGEM: ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES

The Energy Department announced the second NGEM funding opportunity on March 11, 2016. The FOA identifies key technology areas that will drive cost-effective efficiency enhancements and weight reductions in electric machines while addressing the limitations of traditionally used conductive metals and electrical steels. The goal of the FOA is to develop and demonstrate scalable, high throughput processes for manufacturing enabling technologies, including:

  • High performance thermal and electrical conductors
  • Low-loss silicon steel
  • High temperature superconducting wire, and
  • Other enabling technologies to increase performance.

These enabling technologies could help manufacturers cumulatively save nearly 44 terawatt-hours per year, roughly 1.6% of total U.S. electricity consumption, and pave the path for further savings in variable-speed motors. In addition, these same technologies will improve motors used in the growing clean energy sector, helping wind, solar, electric vehicle, and battery manufacturers.

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