High voltage energy transmission hits a new milestone

Global energy player ABB has installed the highest voltage offshore converter station in the North Sea. The 320 kilovolt converter station will convert electricity from offshore wind farms off the coast of Germany, converting that current into high voltage direct current (HVDC) for transmission to the mainland.

I’ve been more interested in high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission precisely because the increase in solar and wind farms creates situations in which we’re going to have to transport power over long distance, something that AC current is not very good at. This is an acute problem in the U.S. where grid infrastructure is in sore need of updating and in which many regional operators have no interest in investing in better interconnects. In fact that U.S. is not even a fully connected and integrated grid with three different interconnects–East, West, and Texas. (Startup Tres Amigas has an ambitious, billion dollar vision for changing that.)

If HVDC technology is proven increasingly safe, reliable and cost effective, the prospect of locating power generation wherever it’s optimal gets easier. And a more integrated grid would allow, for example, solar power generated in one state to be easily feeding the grid in another state. There are many barriers to this vision but if the technology gets more enticing, that’ll help.

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Adam Lesser

Analyst Gigaom Research

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