Pushing the boundaries of transformer technology

HVDC test facility.

1100 KV UHVDC transformer to facilitate power transmission of up to 10,000 megawatts (MW) across 3000 kilometers.

As an engineer, I always like to see the boundaries of technology being pushed, and it’s particularly exciting when it is ABB doing this pushing. This is what happened a few months back when we announced a breakthrough with the world’s first UHVDC (ultrahigh-voltage direct current) converter transformer.

Capable of handling over a million volts (1,100 kV), this enormous piece of equipment (it weighs over 600 tons) has pushed the boundaries of transformer capacity and scale, as well as overcome major challenges, such as electrical insulation.

 To understand the significance of the achievement, take a look at the Xiangjiaba-Shanghai project, completed in 2010. This power transmission project, with a capacity of 6,400 MW was the world’s first commercial UHVDC connection at 800 kV. A key success factor was the voltage rating (the higher the voltage of the line, the more efficient the transmission due to lower losses). Covering a distance of more than 2000 km, the Xiangjiaba-Shanghai link is the longest of its kind in the world.

ABB’s new 1,100 kV converter transformer technology will make it possible to transmit more than 10,000 MWs of power across distances as long as 3,000 km. And that opens up a whole new set of possibilities.

Like the 800 kV line in China, an 1,1100 kV line will be able to deliver electricity from remote sources such as hydro projects and desert solar.

This is the kind of foresight that’s needed in high-tech engineering. There are always new ideas in the pipeline and the coming years will see the boundaries pushed to even greater limits. It is indeed an exciting time to be an engineer.

Related blog posts – The power challenge


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About the author

Scott Curley

I lead the Demand Side Operations for ABB's power transformer business in North America, including strategic partnerships, marketing, engineering, project management and transportation of Power transformers. I've worked at ABB for over 20 years and have lived in the USA, UK and Australia.
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