From the Amazon to the Brazilian coast

2014-11-03 - The Rio Madeira high-voltage direct current (HVDC) link, which is the world’s longest of its kind, incorporates seven of the world’s largest HVDC power transformers. They had a remarkable journey to Brazil.

Brazil has more than 100,000 megawatts (MW) of potential hydropower generation, according to the country’s energy regulator ANEEL, with about 70 percent of it located in the north of the country. The Rio Madeira HVDC link connects two newly built hydropower plants in the northwest, San Antonio and Jirau, with large electrical consumption centers around São Paulo, Brazil's main economic center, approximately 2,400 kilometers to the south east. The purpose of the link is to supply about 10 percent of the current power demand to these highly populated areas.

Power will be transmitted at high voltage – 600 kV– to minimize transmission losses. This system solution will also provide continuous supply and even power and voltage control in the weaker power networks of northwest Brazil. Rio Madeira is the second transmission project in Brazil to use 600 kV HVDC transmission technology. The Itaipu HVDC link, with two HVDC transmission lines built by ABB in 1984 and 1987, was for many years the world’s highest voltage DC power transmission system.

Boats, barges, and trucks… and of course lots of spectators!

For Rio Madeira, ABB provided two HVDC converter stations to transmit the rated power of 3,150 MW to the southeast of Brazil, and an 800 MW HVDC back-to-back station to feed a surrounding AC network in the northwest. Apart from the quadruple thyristor valves in the Porto Velho converter station, at the northwest end of the link, there are seven massive 600 kV HVDC power transformers. Together with ABB’s control and protection system, the valves and transformers ensure an efficient and reliable power transmission.

Each transformer has a transport weight of nearly 400 tons – which is the equivalent of about 400 small private cars. Filled with oil and with all bushings in place, each transformer weighs 600 tons when installed. This makes them the largest HVDC transformers anyone ever built.

Their trip from Ludvika, Sweden, across the Atlantic, then up the Amazon and Madeira River and along the narrow roads to the construction site in Porto Velho was a remarkable journey. Given the weight of each transformer, seven meters of river depth was required for the barge to be able to navigate, which could only be assured during the autumn rains and high tide.

All in all, the transformers spent nearly a month on the water, with 20 days travelling across the Atlantic and 10 days on the river. An appropriate way to start their life in Brazil, given that their role is to transport hydroelectricity generated in the north to coastal regions in the south.


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