Leading power and automation technology group ABB says it has solved a 100-year-old electrical puzzle by developing a direct current breaker for high voltage DC transmission that it says will help shape the grid
ABB has devoted a huge effort into cracking this tough nut of a technology challenge.
The result is the world’s first circuit breaker for high voltage direct current (HVDC).
It combines very fast mechanics with power electronics, and will be capable of “interrupting” power flows equivalent to the output of a large power station within 5milliseconds – that is thirty times faster than the blink of a human eye.
The breakthrough removes a 100-year-old barrier to the development of DC transmission grids, which will enable the efficient integration and exchange of renewable energy.
DC grids are also expected to improve grid reliability and enhance the capability of existing AC (alternating current) networks.
ABB is currently in discussions with power utilities to identify pilot projects for the new development.
“ABB has written a new chapter in the history of electrical engineering,” said Joe Hogan, CEO of ABB, in a short statement.
“Overlay DC grids will be able to interconnect countries and continents, balance loads and reinforce the existing AC transmission networks.”
The Hybrid HVDC breaker development has been a flagship research project for ABB, which invests over $1billion annually in R&D activities.
HVDC technology is needed to facilitate the long-distance transfer of power from hydropower plants, the integration of offshore wind power, the development of visionary solar projects, and the interconnection of different power networks.
ABB originally pioneered HVDC nearly 60 years ago and continues to be a technology driver and market leader with many innovations and developments.
With over 70 HVDC projects, ABB accounts for around half the global installed base, representing an installed capacity of more than 60,000MW (megawatts).
Deployment of HVDC has led to an increasing number of point-to-point connections in different parts of the world.
The logical next step is to connect the lines and optimise the network. ABB is already working on the construction of multi-terminal systems and the latest DC breaker innovation is a major step in the evolution of HVDC grids.
In parallel to the new hybrid breaker development, ABB has an established HVDC grid simulation centre developing solutions for future DC overlay grid operations.