Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
High-voltage direct current
HVDC or high-voltage, direct current electric power transmission systems contrast with the more common alternating-current systems as a means for the bulk transmission of electrical power. The modern form of HVDC transmission used technology developed extensively in the 1930s in Sweden at ASEA. Early commercial installations included the USSR in 1951 between Moscow and Kashira , and a 10-20 MW system in Gotland, Sweden in 1954. 
The advantage of high voltage
Early electric power distribution schemes used direct-current generators located near the customer's loads. As electric power use became more widespread, the distances between loads and generating plant increased. Since the flow of current through the distribution wires resulted in a voltage drop, it became difficult to regulate the voltage at the extremities of distribution circuits.
When transmitting a given quantity of power, higher voltages reduce the transmission loss or reduce the cost of conductors, since a smaller current is required. Conductor cost is roughly proportional to the current carried, and conductor loss is roughly proportional to the square of the current, so higher transmission voltages improve the efficiency of transmission.
However, low voltage is convenient for utilisation equipment such as lamps and motors. The principal advantage of AC is the use of transformers to change the voltage at which power is used. No equivalent of the transformer exists for direct current, so the manipulation of DC voltages is considerably more complex. With the development of efficient AC machines, such as the induction motor, AC transmission and utilization became the norm (see War of Currents).
History of DC transmission
An early method of high-voltage DC transmission was developed by the Swiss engineer Rene Thury . This system used series-connected motor-generator sets to increase voltage. Each set was insulated from ground and driven by insulated shafts from a prime mover. An early example of this system was installed in 1889 in Italy by the Society Acquedotto de Ferrari-Gallieri. This system transmitted 630 kW at 14,000 V DC over a distance of 120 km. Other Thury systems operating at up to 100 kV dc operated up until the 1930s, but the rotating machinery required high maintenance and had high energy loss. Various other electromechanical devices were tested during the first half of the 20th century with little commercial success.
The grid controlled mercury arc valve became available for power transmission during the period 1920-1940. In 1941 a 60 MW, +/- 200 kV link was designed for the city of Berlin using mercury arc valves (Elbe-Project), but owing to the collapse of the German government in 1945 the project was never completed . This system was to provide power over a 115 km buried cable, which during wartime would be less conspicuous as a bombing target. The equipment was removed to the Soviet Union and was put into service there .
Introduction of the fully-static mercury arc valve to commercial service in 1954 marked the beginning of the modern era of HVDC transmission.
Advantages of HVDC over AC Transmission
In a number of applications HVDC is often the preferred option.
- Undersea cables. (eg. 250km Baltic Cable between Sweden and Germany ).
- Endpoint-to-endpoint long-haul bulk power transmission without intermediate 'taps', for example, in remote areas.
- Increasing the capacity of an existing power-grid in situations where additional wires are difficult or expensive to install.
- Allowing power transmission between unsynchronised AC distribution systems.
- Reducing the profile of wiring and pylons for a given power transmission capacity.
- Connection of certain remote generating plant to the distribution grid, for example Nelson River Bipole.
- Stabilising a predominantly AC power-grid.
HVDC can carry more power per conductor, because for a given power rating the constant voltage in a DC line is lower than the peak voltage in an AC line. This voltage determines the insulation thickness and conductor spacing. This allows existing transmission line corridors to be used to carry more power into an area of high power consumption, which can lower costs.
Possible health advantages of HVDC over AC Transmission
A high-voltage DC transmission line would not produce the same sort of extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic field as would an equivalent AC line. It is speculated by those who believe that ELF radiation is harmful that such a reduction in EM fields would be beneficial in terms of health. The benefits would extend only to those near the transmission lines, as the electric and magnetic fields associated with high current AC transmission lines do not travel far beyond the actual lines themselves. These fields are, however, also associated with electrical equipment and household appliances. It should be noted that the current scientific consensus  does not consider ELF sources and their associated fields to be particularly harmful.
The required static invertors are expensive and cannot be overloaded very much. At smaller transmission distances the losses in the static inverters may be bigger than in an AC powerline. In contrast to AC systems, realizing multiterminal systems is complex, as is expanding existing schemes to multiterminal systems. In practice the technology of HVDC transmission is normally only used, when AC transmission systems are impossible or too expensive.
AC networks interconnections
Using ac transmission lines, only synchronized AC networks can be interconnected: those which oscillate at the same frequency and in phase. Many areas which wish to share power have unsynchronized networks. The power grids of the UK, Northern Europe and continental Europe all operating at 50Hz are not synchronized. Japan has 50Hz and 60Hz networks. Continental North America, whilst operating at 60Hz throughout, is divided into regions which are unsynchronised, East, West, Texas and Quebec. Brazil and Paraguay which share the massive Itaipu hydroelectric plant, operate on 60Hz and 50Hz respectively. However, HVDC systems makes it possible to interconnect unsynchronized AC networks, and also adds the possibility of controlling AC voltage and reactive power flow.
A generator connected to a long ac transmission line may become unstable and fall out of synchronization with a distant ac power system. A HVDC transmission link may make it economically feasible to use remote generation sites. Wind farms located off-shore may use HVDC systems to collect power from multiple unsynchronized generators for transmission to the shore by an underwater cable.
In general, however, an HVDC power line will interconnect two AC regions of the power-distribution grid. Machinery to convert between AC and DC power adds a considerable cost in power transmission. The conversion from AC to DC is known as rectification, and from DC to AC as inversion. Above a certain break-even distance (about 50 km for submarine cables, and perhaps 600-800 km for overhead cables ), the lower cost of the HVDC cable outweighs the cost of the electronics.
The conversion electronics also present an opportunity to effectively manage the power grid by means of controlling the magnitude and direction of power flow. An additional advantage of the existence of HVDC links, therefore, is potential increased stability in the transmission grid.
Rectifying and Inverting
Rectifying and Inverting Components
Early static systems used mercury arc rectifiers, which were unreliable. Nevertheless some HVDC systems using mercury arc rectifiers are still in service in 2005. The thyristor valve was first used in HVDC systems in the 1960s. The thyristor is a solid-state semiconductor device similar to the diode, but with an extra control terminal that is used to switch the device on at a particular instant during the AC cycle. The insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) is now also used.
Because the voltages in HVDC systems, around 500 kV in some cases, exceed the breakdown voltages of the semiconductor devices, HVDC converters are built using large numbers of semiconductors in series.
The low-voltage control circuits used to switch the thyristors on and off need to be isolated from the high voltages present on the transmission lines. This is usually done optically. In a hybrid control system, the low-voltage control electronics sends light pulses along optical fibres to the high-side control electronics. Another system, called direct light triggering, dispenses with the high-side electronics, instead using light pulses from the control electronics to switch light-triggered thyristors (LTTs).
A complete switching element is commonly referred to as a 'valve', irrespective of its construction.
Rectifying and Inverting Systems
Rectification and inversion use essentially the same machinery. Many substations are set up in such a way that they can act as both rectifiers and inverters. At the AC end a set of transformers, often three physically separate single-phase transformers, isolate the station from the AC supply, to provide a local earth, and to ensure the correct eventual DC voltage. The output of these transformers is then connected to a bridge rectifier formed by a number of valves. The basic configuration uses six valves, connecting each of the three phases to each of the DC rails. However, with a phase change only every sixty degrees, considerable harmonics remain on the DC rails.
An enhancement of this configuration uses twelve valves (often known as a twelve-pulse system). The AC is split into two separate three phase supplies before transformation. One of the sets of supplies is then configured to have a star (wye) secondary, the other a delta secondary, establishing a thirty degree phase difference between each of the sets of three phases. With twelve valves connecting each of the two sets of three phases to the two DC rails, there is a phase change every thirty degrees, and harmonics are considerably reduced.
In addition to the conversion transformers and valve-sets, various passive resistive and reactive components help filter harmonics out of the DC rails.
Monopole and Earth Return
In a common configuration,called monopole, one of the terminals of the rectifier is connected to earth ground. The other terminal, at a potential high above, or below, ground, is connected to a transmission line. The earthed terminal may or may not be connected to the corresponding connection at the inverting station by means of a second conductor.
If no metallic conductor is installed, current flows in the earth between the earth electrodes at the two stations. The issues surrounding earth-return current include
- Electrochmical corrosion of long buried metal objects such as pipelines
- Underater earth-return electrodes in seawater may produce chlorine or otherwise affect water chemistry.
- An unbalanced current path may result in a net magnetic field, which can affect magnetic navigational compasses for ships passing over an underwater cable.
These effects can be eliminated with installation of a metallic return conductor between the two ends of the monopolar transmission line. Since one terminal of the converters is connected to earth, the return conductor need not be insulated for the full transmission voltage which makes it less costly than the high-voltage conductor. Use of a metallic return conductor is decided based on economic, technical and environmental factors.
Modern monopolar systems for pure overhead lines carry typically 1500 MW. If underground or seacables are used the typical value is 600 MW.
In bipolar transmission a pair of conductors is used, each at a high potential with respect to ground, in opposite polarity. Since these conductors must be insulated for the full voltage, transmission line cost is higher than a monopole with a return conductor. However, there are a number of advantages to bipolar transmission which can make it the attractive option.
- Under normal load, negligible earth-current flows, as in the case of monopolar transmission with a metallic earth-return; minimising eart return loss and environmental effects.
- When a fault develops in a line, with earth return electrodes have been installed at each end of the line, current can continue flow using the earth as a return path, operating in monopolar mode.
- Since for a given power rating bipolar lines carry only half the current of monopolar lines, the cost of the second conductor is reduced compared to a monopolar line of the same rating.
- In very adverse terrain, the second conductor may be carried on an independant set of transmission towers, so that some power may continue to be transmitted even if one line is damaged.
A bipolar system may also be installed with a metallic earth return conductor.
Bipolar systems may carry as much as 3000 MW at voltages of +/-533 kV. Submarine cable installations initially commissioned as a monopole may be upgraded with additional cables and operated as a bipole.
Corona discharge is the creation of ions in a fluid (such as air) by the presence of a strong electromagnetic field. Electrons are torn from unionised air, and either the positive ions or else the electrons are attracted to the conductor, whilst the charged particles drift. This effect can cause considerable power loss, create audible and radio-frequency interference, generate toxic compounds such as oxides of nitrogen and ozone, and lead to arcing.
Both AC and DC transmission lines can generate coronas, in the former case in the form of oscillating particles, in the latter a constant wind. Due to the space charge formed around the conductors, an HVDC system may have about half the loss per unit length of a high voltage AC system carrying the same amount of power. With monopolar transmission the choice of polarity of the energised conductor leads to a degree of control over the corona discharge. In particular, the polarity of the ions emitted can be controlled, which may have an environmental impact on particulate condensation (particles of different polarities have a different mean-free path). Negative coronas generate considerably more ozone than positive coronas, and generate it further downwind of the power line, creating the potential for health effects. The use of a positive voltage will reduce the ozone impacts of monopole HVDC power lines.
The controllability of current-flow through HVDC rectifiers and inverters, their application in connecting unsynchronized networks, and their applications in efficient submarine cables mean that HVDC cables are often used at national boundaries for the exchange of power. Offshore windfarms also require undersea cables, and their turbines are unsynchronized. In very long-distance connections between just two points, for example around the remote communities of Siberia, Canada, and the Scandinavian North, the decreased line-costs of HVDC also makes it the usual choice. Other applications have been noted throughout this article.
A HVDC link in which the two AC-to-DC converters are housed in the same building, the HVDC transmission existing only within the building itself, is called a back-to-back HVDC link. This is the common configuration for interconnecting two unsynchronised grids or for changing frequency.
HVDC back-to-back stations can also be designed to deliver single phase AC. This is required for Traction current converter plants.
The most common configuration of an HVDC link is a station-to-station link, where two inverter/rectifier stations are connected by means of a dedicated HVDC link. This is also a configuration commonly used in connecting unsynchronised grids, in long-haul power transmission, and in undersea cables.
Multi-terminal HVDC links, connecting more than two points, are rare. The configuration of multiple terminals can be series, parallel, or hybrid (a mixture of series and parallel). Parallel configuration tends to be used for large capacity stations, and series for lower capacity stations. An example is the 2000 MW Quebec - New England Transmission system opened in 1992, which is currently the largest multi-terminal HVDC system in the world. 
Realized HVDC Systems
Systems which use (or used) mercury arc rectifiers
- Elbe-Project (HVDC-project between Dessau and Berlin, incompleted)
- HVDC Gotland
- HVDC Cross-Channel (HVDC-link England-France)
- HVDC Inter-Island (HVDC link between the Islands of New Zealand)
- HVDC back-to-back station Sakuma
- HVDC Wolgograd-Donbass
- HVDC Italia-Corsica-Sardinia (SACOI)
- HVDC Vancouver-Island
- Nelson River Bipole
- HVDC Kingsnorth
Systems, which used thyristors from first power-on
- HVDC back-to-back station Eel River
- Square Butte
- HVDC back-to-back station Shin Shinano
- HVDC Hokkaido-Honschu
- Cabora-Bassa link from Mozambique to South Africa
- HVDC back-to-back station Acaray
- HVDC back-to-back station Vyborg
- HVDC back-to-back station Dürnrohr
- HVDC Itaipu
- HVDC back-to-back station Artesia, New Mexico
- HVDC back-to-back station Chateauguay
- HVDC back-to-back station Oklaunion
- HVDC back-to-back station Blackwater, New Mexico
- HVDC back-to-back station Highgate
- HVDC back-to-back station Madawaska
- HVDC back-to-back station Miles City
- HVDC back-to-back station Broken Hill
- HVDC back-to-back station Uruguaiana
- HVDC back-to-back station Virginia Smith
- HVDC back-to-back station Mc Neill
- HVDC back-to-back station Vindhyachal
- HVDC Sileru-Barsoor
- HVDC Gezhouba - Shanghai
- Quebec - New England Transmission
- HVDC Rihand-Delhi
- HVDC back-to-back station Welch-Monticello
- HVDC Haenam-Cheju
- HVDC back-to-back station Etzenricht
- HVDC back-to-back station GK Wien-Southeast
- HVDC Hellsjön-Grängesberg
- HVDC Leyte - Luzon
- HVDC Visby-Nas
- HVDC Tjaereborg
- HVDC Italy-Greece
- Kii Channel HVDC system
- HVDC Moyle
- HVDC Thailand-Malaysia
- Cross Sound Cable, New Haven-Long Island USA
- HVDC back-to-back station Minami-Fukumitsu
- HVDC Troll
- HVDC Three Gorges-Changzhou
- HVDC Three Gorges-Guangdong
- HVDC Bass-Strait
- NorNed (planned submarine cable between Norway and the Netherlands)
-  Narain G. Hingorani in IEEE Spectrum magazine, 1996.
-  Siemens AG "HVDC Basics" page.
-  ABB HVDC website
-  Basslink project
-  Donald Beaty et al, "Standard Handbook for Electrical Engineers 11th Ed.", McGraw Hill, 1978
-  http://www.myinsulators.com/acw/bookref/histsyscable/
-  Shaping the Tools of Competitive Power http://www.tema.liu.se/tema-t/sirp/PDF/322_5.pdf
-  http://www.rmst.co.il/HVDC_Proven_Technology.pdf
-  http://www.ieee.org/organizations/history_center/Che2004/DITTMANN.pdf
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