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ELECTRIC SUPERHIGHWAY:  HIGH VOLTAGE DIRECT CURRENT TRANSMISSION

Initially, this is a lesson in the historical adoption of technology.  In the 1990’s, communications were faced with a number of problems. First, there was a large explosion in both demands and in increased applications for broadband technology.  Second, there was a business need for interactivity. In both cases, the technology was limiting. Telecom and CATV companies could not engineer and construct large enough copper and AC/DC power infrastructure.  It was cost- prohibitive, as well as resource prohibitive.

The solution was three-fold.  First, digital communications had to supplant analog communications.  Second, photo-electric and fiber optical delivery had to supplant copper- based delivery.  Finally, an Internet protocol solution and personal digital identification schemes allowed for interactivity.  From this recognition that communications technology had to change drastically, we now benefit each day from fiber to the home across the United States.  It all began with something called the information highway.

The interesting sidebar is that many would say that this was all invented in the 1990s.  However, the primary inventions of this technology began with 1887 by the German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz and the photophone allowing transmission of speech on a beam of light. It was invented jointly by Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant Charles Sumner Tainter on February 19, 1880.  The technology that revolutionized an Industry was in fact invented over 100 years before.

Much like the age of digital communications, the electric superhighway was foundationally begun with technology developed extensively in the 1930s in Sweden (ASEA) and in Germany. Early commercial installations included one in the Soviet Union in 1951 between Moscow and Kashira, and a 100 kV, 20 MW system between Gotland and mainland Sweden in 1954. The longest HVDC link in the world is the Rio Madeira link in Brazil, which consists of two bipoles of ±600 kV, 3150 MW each, connecting Porto Velho in the state of Rondônia to the São Paulo area. The length of the DC line is 2,375 km (1,476 mi).  (Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current) As we move towards today’s electric superhighway, High Voltage DC provides three distinct advantages.

  • HVDC allows for the transmission of power between two unsynchronized and dissimilar systems.
  • HVDC allows for a large advantage in long-distance transport in reliability, distance, and capacity.
  • HVDC isolates the DC transmission or conversion from frequency and power imperfections in the AC power systems.

Mitsubishi had been a pioneer in three technologies that greatly benefit our HVDC Diamond® System:

  • SPEED - The development of LLC Thyristors that can be switched optically and at fast speeds.
  • SIZE - The development of our IGBT (insulated gate bipolar transistor) which dramatically drops the space and cost of the power voltage switching.
  • COST - The development of our MMC (modular multilevel converter) integrated into our VSC (voltage source control) systems.

Vince Curci, underground transmission project manager with HDR, said one of the advantages of VSC technology is that it is very compact. “They require maybe 30% of the area of a conventional converter and about 50% of the weight.” (Source: https://www.powermag.com/benefits-of-high-voltage-direct-current-transmission- systems/?pagenum=1)  At Mitsubishi Electric SSD, we are greatly benefited by the MELCO technologies available to us by our technology parent.  Having the advantages of Speed, Size and Cost are the basis of any good highway.

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