ABB opens era of power superhighways

2006-11-15 - ABB has officially opened the world's first installation for testing the technology of energy-efficient power superhighways.

By Editorial services

The testing facility in Ludvika, Sweden will allow long-term testing of direct current (DC) rated at 800 kilovolts (kV), marking another first for ABB, which pioneered high-voltage direct current (HVDC) systems more than 50 years ago. The last voltage increase in HVDC systems occurred 20 years ago when ABB built a transmission line rated at 600 kV for Brazil's Itaipu hydroelectric power plant – a world record.

One of the main aims of the project was to develop a new bushing for 800 kV.
UHVDC (ultra high-voltage direct current) transmission systems rated at 800 kV will make it viable to produce electricity in remote regions of China, India, Brazil and Africa, where vast hydropower resources remain untapped. An UHVDC link 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) long is 30 percent cheaper, partly because it reduces electricity losses by 30 percent compared with 500 kV DC or 800 kV AC (alternating current) technology.

"ABB's technology will enable some of the most populous regions in the world to pursue rapid economic development with lower environmental impact," said Bernhard Jucker, head of ABB's Power Products division. The Nov. 14 inauguration was attended by about 60 guests, including media. The test site is located about 100 meters from ABB's HVDC headquarters in Ludvika.

The ultra high-voltage direct current test site in Ludvika, Sweden.
China and India are set to be the main users of the new technology as seek to secure reliable power supplies. India plans to build five ultra high-voltage DC lines over the next ten years, each with a capacity of 6,000 megawatts (MW); China is planning one line every year for the next decade, each with a capacity of 5,000 MW to 6,400 MW.

Based on average electricity consumption per capita, a 6,400 MW UHVDC link could provide enough power to meet the needs of about 50 million people in India, and 14 million in China. There are also plans to install 800 kV UHVDC lines in southern Africa and in Brazil.

"Because power is often generated far from consumers, there is all over the world an increasing need to be able to transmit large amounts of electricity over long distances," said Per Haugland, global manager of ABB's Grid Systems business unit, at the inauguration in Ludvika. "By increasing the voltage level of the transmission, considerable advantages for the environment are gained, such as decreased losses and smaller transmission line highways."
(LEFT) Dan Wikström (l), president of STRI, and Per Haugland (r), global manager of ABB Grid Systems, at the inauguration of the Ultra High Voltage DIrect Current test site in Ludvika, which opened (RIGHT) with music and pyrotechnics. STRI is an independent technology consulting company and accredited high voltage laboratory assigned by ABB to construct and operate the UHVDC testing facility

The test site represents ABB’s third historical milestone in the development of high-voltage direct-current technology. These are:
  • 1954: ABB delivers the world’s first HVDC commercial installation – a link between the island of Gotland and the Swedish mainland.
  • 1997: ABB introduces HVDC Light®, a transmission technology with unique advantages through full reactive and active power control.
  • 2006: ABB opens installation to test 800 kV UHVDC.

The test site will operate at 850 kV DC, and test equipment like: a transformer prototype, transformer bushing, wall bushing, bypass breaker, surge arrester, smoothing reactor, voltage divider, RI-capacitor, disconnector, optical link and post insulators.

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    A discharge flash at more than 2 million volts tests the insulation gap.

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