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What is the power source of the future?

Power sources in the future will be used and developed based upon economic, political, environmental and technological considerations. Changes will be dramatic but evolving over decades; the changes will be both in the sources of power and perhaps more so in the consequences of creating and using that power.

A large percentage of the world population is rapidly increasing in their power requirements due to changing from subsistence living to more affluent life styles. Emerging economies are often willing to pay more for their power because of the greater incremental benefit of the increased power consumption as compared to mature economies. These increased costs include direct costs (facilities, distribution and fuel) and indirect costs (pollution and casualties from producing the power, etc.).

Any single type of power source will have challenges which will prevent it from being universally adopted. Deep water oil wells, tar sands, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are all more expensive than conventional techniques and sources. Wind and solar power are intermittent in their ability to produce power and presently are heavily subsidized in their production costs. Geothermal sources are limited in regards to where they are located. Nuclear power is facing considerable social and political opposition at the present time. Emerging power sources require development time and large amounts of resources in order to supply a significant amount of the world power demand.

Future power sources will be a combination of advanced conventional and emerging technologies. The world-wide demand for power and the cost of producing that power are both increasing. The primary factor which will determine which power source is employed will be the overall cost of the power relative to the benefit which it provides.

David Norton, TDK-Lambda Americas,

It does not require a crystal ball to foresee that changes in power sources will follow recent trends including higher efficiencies, smaller sizes, reduced heat loads and intelligent interfaces. Advances in electronic components and new power topologies have yielded major improvements in conversion efficiencies (AC-DC, DC-DC), facilitated by ultra high operating frequencies that require much smaller magnetic devices (transformers, inductors) and utilize expanded-life capacitive devices, e.g., ceramic capacitors are replacing dry-out-prone electrolytic types. Moreover, high efficiency conversion techniques will reduce and in many cases eliminate the need for failure-prone fans.

Future power sources will integrate more easily with OEM-equipment as packaging techniques evolve (e.g., advanced brick formats). Digital communications between the power sources and the driven electronics will allow the end equipment to minimize the power used as demands vary and even evaluate if the power section has been running too hot, for predictive maintenance scheduling.

As microprocessors evolve into increasingly denser configurations, their drive voltages will continue to reduce, thus necessitating closer couplings of the power section to the processors in order to reduce wasteful voltage drops in the interface cables and etched conductors.

In large internet server arrays the use of “load shedding” where paralleled power sources can be turned On/Off as the network demands vary will play an important part in conserving energy and reducing operational costs.


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