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State-of-the-art mechanical circuit breakers in medium-voltage systems allow a safe handling of short-circuits if the short circuit power of the grid is limited. Using delayed turn-off times, the circuit breakers can be coordinated with lower level protection gear. Hence, a high availability of the grid can be guaranteed. However, during a short-circuit a significant voltage sag can be noticed locally in the medium-voltage grid. Sensitive loads such as computers will fail even if the voltage returns within a few seconds. A semiconductor circuit breaker, however, is able to switch fast enough to keep voltage disturbance within acceptable limits. The optimization and selection of power electronic switch topologies is critical. In this paper, different semiconductors are briefly compared considering the requirements of a solid-state switch integrated into a 20-kV medium-voltage grid. Based on these semiconductor characteristics, various switch topologies are developed, which are compared under technical and economical aspects. It is shown that solid-state circuit breakers offer significant advantages when compared to present solutions and can be used in today's medium-voltage power systems.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2004