Solid state transformer (SST), also referred to as ‘smart transformer’ is a combination of control circuitry, high-powered semiconductor components, and conventional high frequency transformers. The solid state transformer allows additional flexibility to control power distribution networks. This, in turn, enable smooth conversion from AC to DC and vice-versa, as per the requirement.
Smart transformers cater to several electrical applications, ranging from alternative power generation to traction locomotives, electric industries, and power grid among others. Besides smooth conversion of AC to DC, and DC to AC, solid state transformer facilitates voltage conversion too.
Among all, alternative power generation accounts for the largest share in solid state transformer market. Also, inclination towards renewable power generation sources such as traction locomotives, wind, and solar energy is paving way for implementation of solid state transformers across the globe.
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Solid state transformers are being highly commercialized since 2018, and has been used for generation of energy using renewable power sources. Also, it has been integrated in electric vehicles. These two segments are projected to contribute significantly to growth of the global solid state transformer market in coming years.
The gradual shift from conventional transformers towards solid state transformers is projected to boost the industry growth. Growing railway infrastructure in developing regions is another factor likely to contribute to the market expansion.
The other factors that are anticipated to drive the industry growth are growing railway infrastructure in developing regions.
On the other hand, inadequate SST testing infrastructure and high price associated with solid state transformers are anticipated to hinder the market growth. Implementation cost of smart transformers are comparatively higher than that of the conventional ones. This may downturn the growth trajectory of solid state transformer market.
Global Solid State Transformer Market – Snapshot
Solid state transformer (SST) is also known as electronic power transformer or power electronic transformer. An SST can be defined as a type of electric power converter that is used as an AC-to-AC converter in AC electric power distribution and that replaces a conventional transformer. Although a solid state transformer is more complex than a conventional converter, it is more efficient and smaller than the conventional transformer. An SST generally contains a high-frequency transformer inside the DC-to-DC converter or AC-to-AC converter, which transmits power and offers electric isolation. Currently, solid state transformers are increasingly being used in the electrical industry in applications such as alternative power generation, power grids, and traction locomotives. The global solid state transformer market is expected to reach value of US$ 1,141.0 Mn by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 21.7% from 2019 to 2027.
Furthermore, increasing number of installations of renewable energy sources and smart grids is projected to drive the global solid state transformer market during the forecast period. Solid state transformers are increasingly being used between a load or distribution grid and a power generation source for energy management. Preference for renewable energy sources, such as tidal, solar, and wind power, has increased in recent years. This would further increase investments in smart grids and renewable energy systems. This, in turn, is anticipated to drive the solid state transformer market during the forecast period. In addition, solid state transformers are used in various offshore energy generation applications, eliminating drawbacks of traditional transformers including sensitivity to harmonics, performance degradation under system disruptions and overload, phase imbalance, power quality issues, and voltage drop under load. Thus, increasing usage of SST in these applications is expected to augment the demand for SST during the forecast period.
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Increasing number of data centers led by rising demand for supporting infrastructure has become a major trend in the global solid state transformer market. Solid state transformers are increasingly being used in data centers to carry out multiple tasks including maintenance of cooling systems and power conditioning. This is primarily attributable to features of solid state transformers. Solid state transformers offer better control over reactive power, current, and voltage of data center power supply, while reducing power loss. They also eliminate the need for additional devices such as power conditioners. Advantages of solid state transformers help in developing data centers with an optimal design. Furthermore, companies are investing a large portion of their revenues in opening new data centers. For instance, Huawei has announced to build two data centers in South Africa from March 2019 in order to expand cloud services across Africa. Google is expected to invest US$ 13 Bn in building new data centers across the U.S. in 2019.
Solid state transformers provide effective isolation between a low-voltage system and a medium-voltage system. However, several issues limit the applicability of these transformers in distribution grids. Solid state transformers are not compatible with protection systems employed in low-voltage grids. Hence, they cannot be used in place of low-frequency transformers. Also, solid state transformers are less efficient than low-frequency transformers, even though their prices are higher. These factors are likely to hamper the global solid state transformer market during the forecast period.
With the objective of business expansion, several players are expanding their offerings through strategic mergers and acquisitions as well as partnerships. Furthermore, an increasing number of players are spending significantly on R&D activities to develop innovative and technologically advanced solid state transformers. Some of the prominent players operating in the global solid state transformer market are ABB Ltd., Alstom SA, Amantys Limited, Eaton, General Electric Co., Gridbridge, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Schneider Electric Se, Siemens AG, and Varentec, Inc.
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