HVDC — High Voltage Direct Current

HVDC+valve+hallThe company that commissioned the world’s first 800 kilovolt UHVDC systems, the longest overhead HVDC link to go into commercial operation, and the world’s longest underwater and underground HVDC links, is now writing the next chapter in the evolution of this technology.

ABB has successfully designed and developed a hybrid DC breaker after years of research, functional testing, and simulation in the R&D laboratories. This breaker is a breakthrough that solves a technical challenge that has been unresolved for over a hundred years and was perhaps one of the main influencers in the ‘war of currents‘ outcome. The ‘hybrid’ breaker combines mechanical and power electronics switching that enables it to interrupt power flows equivalent to the output of a nuclear power station within 5 milliseconds – that’s as fast as a honey bee takes per flap of its wing – and more than 30 times faster than the reaction time of an Olympic 100-meter medalist to react to the starter’s gun!

The challenge was to do it ‘ultra-fast’ with minimal operational losses and this has been achieved by combining advanced ultrafast mechanical actuators with ABB’s inhouse semiconductor IGBT valve technologies or power electronics.

The new breaker is a ‘game changer’. It removes a significant stumbling block in the development of HVDC transmission grids. These grids will enable interconnection and load balancing between HVDC power superhighways integrating renewables and transporting bulk power across long distances with minimal losses. DC grids will enable sharing of resources like lines and converter stations that provides reliability and redundancy in a power network in an economically viable manner with minimal losses. It will enable the transmission system to maintain power flow even if there is a fault on one of the lines.

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