Construction workers install transformer equipment. Photo credit: Andry Denisah / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
While most distributed energy resources primarily rely on direct current, or DC, power, the existing grid has run largely on alternating currents for over 100 years.
That technical mismatch means that transformers are critical: so critical, in fact, that demand is outstripping supply. Solid state transformers — or SST, essentially a souped up version of the regular tech, ideal for smart grid applications — in particular stand to simplify the process of integrating DERs and other new tech into the grid. But complications abound when it comes to commercializing SSTs, and a slew of early entrants to the market have failed to do so.
Grid infrastructure solutions startup Amperesand, though, is aiming to do what its predecessors have not. While it’s still early days, the company just secured funding to help it scale manufacturing of its novel SST tech.
Amperesand’s systems are built to ease the integration and conversion of mixed AC/DC power loads and build grid resilience. The company claims their data-driven approach that combines intelligent monitoring and bidirectional energy flows will reduce ownership costs and the system’s physical footprint, while maximizing efficiency.
Successfully commercializing SST technology isn’t easy. SSTs can generate instability on the grid; basically, the AC grid sees the SST’s rectifier as a consistent power load no matter what the actual client load composition is. When these impediments aren’t corrected, the DC networks can lose stability and cause local grid disruptions.
Overall costs and lack of investment have also prevented commercialization. Despite its effective volt/VAR optimization technology, Boston-based GridCo folded in 2018 after glacial market growth froze investments. In 2021, Sentient Energy bought Silicon Valley startup Varentec after being acquired by Koch Engineered Solutions in 2020.
Amperesand, however, seems on its way to be one of the first — if not the first — to successfully clear the commercialization hurdle. The company deployed the world’s first 1.5MW SST system to Singapore’s grid, which has been online since 2022. That system laid the groundwork for manufacturing its technology for wider use. Amperesand expects to deliver its first SST systems to customers in the United States and Singapore American and Singaporean customers in 2025.
The market for next-generation DC fast-charging infrastructure is projected to exceed $200 billion and reach 200 gigawatts of demand by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.