HVDC a key solar power tool for Europe

2012-02-07 - HVDC technology will be the key engineering link between the Saharan sun and meeting 15% of European electricity needs with solar power.

Caprivi Link Interconnector: Gerus HVDC Light station, situated in central Namibia. Spare converter transformer. Copyright ABB.
The Desertec Foundation, working with a number of companies, aims to connect solar energy from the Sahara desert with the electrical grids of North Africa and Europe. As energy blogger, Susan Kraemer, puts it, this vision is now barrelling toward realization. The catch, of course, is that the electricity must travel great distances to power cities far from the Sahara. How can electricity travel so far from where it's generated? And how much will be lost along the way?

To solve this problem, Desertec is proposing to use high-voltage direct current (HVDC) links, which are built by ABB to transmit great amounts of electricity over extremely long distances. HVDC (or HVDC Light) cables, laid under the sand or sea, could be used to bring solar energy from the Sahara to cities thousands of kilometers away with very little electricity lost in transmission. For example, a 2,000-km long HVDC line rated at 800 kilovolts loses only about 5 percent of the electricity it carries to heat, while an equivalent AC line would lose about 10 percent.



For skeptics, powering the world with the desert's solar energy may still seem too distant a vision. But it's worth remembering that HVDC electricity superhighways themselves were once challenged as far-fetched or futuristic, and now exist on every continent. This video reveals the history of HVDC technology, once dubbed "The Silver Thread" by the wife one of the its chief creators.

Contact ABB about HVDC.

You might also like:

ABB's contribution to the Desertec project

World’s most powerful underground HVDC cable

Images: ABB on Flickr

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