Embedded Software IP & Technology Transfer in Power Electronics Applications

OPAL-RT Realtime 2009 Conference in Montréal

I am just arriving from attending OPAL-RT’s RealTime 2009 Conference held in Montreal from August 30th-September 2th. People from all around the world gathered to this conference to share experience using OPAL-RT RealTime Simulators, to give new perspectives of this technology or simply to learn more about this kind of products. Many industries/applications were represented : power systems, aerospace, automotive, industrial motor drives, wind turbines, etc. To know more about OPAL-RT technology, please read one of my previous post .

OPAL-RT Demonstration at RealTime 2009

Source : OPAL-RT

On the picture above (click to enlarge), Philippe Venne from OPAL-RT (on the right side) is presenting a real time simulation demontration of a 17 wind turbine wind farm to Frédéric Colas from Université de Lille (France). The experiment running on the picture (from the simulator located on the left side of the screen) is a short-circuit from phase A to ground at the point of connection of the farm on the network. The graphs on the left are the voltages and currents at the point of connection; the graph on the top right is the torque of the wind turbine rotor during the fault. Finally, the graph on the bottom right is the DC bus voltage during the fault.

Many other hand-on demonstration were presented on various topic of applications. It looks very promising for RealTime 2010 conference.

OPAL-RT and Real-Time Simulation of Electric Motor Drives

FPGA technology in power electronics application is not only a matter of glue logic or system-on-a-chip platform but is also a matter of high-performance computing for real-time simulators of electric motor drives and any dynamic systems.

The use of FPGA in high-performance computing is not new: many applications have benefitted of the accelerated computing capabilities of those devices enabled by their parallelism capabilities, such as DNA sequencing and financial services. Since power electronics applications are typical fast-dynamic, complex and non-linear application, there might have a natural interest there to exploit accelerated computing platforms to simulate those systems in real-time.

This is exactly what OPAL-RT, a Montreal-based company, is doing : FPGA-based real-time simulators for power electronics applications. Their products enable system designers to quickly, safely and cheaply test their designs on a virtual plant. A typical example would be a PMSM-based system motor control designers that want to test his algorithms on many size of motors (2kW-5kW-15 kW) without having to plug its controller on a “real” motor : this designer can then plug its controller on a OPAL-RT “virtual” motor and test its motor control algorithm at a very early stage in its project (before having the real system protype available for example). The model of those “virtual” motors can be based on standard analytical equations or based on JMAG finite element analysis.

This type of technology opens a very broad range of new possibilities in the design of power electronics systems.