The evolution of FACTS

Enhancing the capacity of existing power lines

ABB pioneered FACTS technology in the 1950s and remains the uncontested leader in technological innovation and market share to this day. Over the past 50 years, ABB has completed more than 700 FACTS projects and has achieved the vast majority of technology breakthroughs in the field.

FACTS technologies have a small footprint and minimal impact on the environment. Project implementation times are considerably faster and investment costs substantially lower than the alternative of building more transmission lines or new power generation facilities.

FACTS consists of three technology branches: series compensation, dynamic shunt compensation, and dynamic energy storage.

Series compensation

SC, Tuomela & Asmunti, Finland
Series compensation was invented by ABB in 1950. It made possible the world's first 400 kV transmission in the 1950s by resolving the issue of how to transmit power over long distances.

The solution lay in making the distance between the power generation plant and the load centers seem, in an electrical sense, shorter. As a result, power can be transmitted at levels considerably higher than the natural loading of the transmission lines.

The benefits of series compensation - improved system stability, increased transmission capacity, and reduced overall power losses – led to a flood of orders for both new and existing transmission installations throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

SVC, Viklandet, Norway
As transmission capacities rose, so did the need for higher series compensation voltages. ABB delivered the first series compensation for 500 kV the United States in 1968 and progressively reached 800 kV – the current industry maximum – in Brazil in 1989.

Controllable series compensation (TCSC) was installed by ABB in the late 1990s and is also part of the FACTS family.

By the end of the 20th century, the number of ABB installations of series compensation exceeded 250, and extra-high-voltage AC transmission for distances of 1,000 kilometers or more were common.

ABB's strength in semiconductors and valve technology enabled it to develop high-power thyristors and a new AC technology in the 1970s - static var compensation (SVC). SVC was initially developed to counter the random voltage variations caused by electric arc furnaces in steel mills.

When the first SVC was delivered to a steel facility in 1972 the impact was revolutionary – voltage was stabilized, energy losses reduced, and the problem of flicker that affects consumers close to steel mills was mitigated. Development did not stop there.

In 1979 ABB launched SVC for rail applications and for extra-high-voltage transmission, and in 1996 developed a mobile SVC that utilities could transport by road and locate according to where it was needed the most.

Over the years, dynamic shunt compensation to utility customers has been the dominant part of the business. In transmission grid applications SVC is used to increase the transmission capacity and specifically to improve the transient stability.

SVC Light®

SVC Light, Santiago, Chile
In 1998, ABB launched a new generation of dynamic shunt compensation technology for transmission, steel and rail applications - SVC Light (often referred to in the United States by the generic name STATCOM).

SVC Light shares the same technology platform as another unique ABB innovation, HVDC Light.

The platform is based on a voltage source converter capable of both generating and consuming reactive power, and insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBT) which have a high switching frequency and extremely fast control.

SVC Light with Energy Storage
The integration of dynamic energy storage into transmission and distribution systems has the potential to provide significant benefits to the supply chain. Increasing use of distributed generation, particularly based on renewable energy sources, is driving the need for distributed energy storage to enable networks to deliver reliable, cost effective, environmentally friendly, and high quality electricity.

The new technology is based on SVC Light, combined with Li-ion battery storage. This combination enables dynamic control of active as well as reactive power in a system, independently of each other.

ABB is aiming for industry, distribution and transmission level energy storage applications.

The focus will be on applications where the combined use of continuous reactive power control and short term active power support is required.

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    What is FACTS?

    • Flexible alternating current transmission systems (FACTS) is a generic term for a group of technologies that radically increases the capacity of the transmission network – by 50 percent or more – while maintaining or improving voltage stability and grid reliability.

    The creation of FACTS

    • Fifty percent of all FACTS projects worldwide have been delivered by ABB. All the main components were pioneered by ABB - series compensation in 1950, static var compensation (SVC) in 1972, and SVC Light in 1998 – and they are all engineered by ABB.

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