How can technology support the growing need for electricity while ensuring a sustainable environment? High-voltage direct current (HVDC) is part of the answer.
Many of us would agree that our world is changing at a tremendous pace, both economically and socially. While our world transforms around us, we have begun to recognize that this progress cannot come at the cost of the global environment. Our determination to support global development by delivering electricity in an efficient way with minimum environmental impact is driving the case for renewable energy.
Our transmission and distribution systems were not designed for this modern, power hungry world. Many of the AC grids in western countries have changed little since they were built over 50 years ago: compare that rate of development with the progress we have seen in other technologies, industry and urbanization.
We also need to accelerate the development of remote hydro power, alongside wind and solar. Renewable power sources bring new challenges for our power systems because large-scale developments cannot be built in residential or industrial areas. They must be built far from the consumers or be limited to small-scale plants linked to the distribution grid. Large-scale plants will provide large volumes of power, but only if we have the transmission infrastructure to deliver it to consumers. The contribution of distributed small-scale plants will be positive only if grid stability can be maintained.
Bottom line being that renewables alter the generation portfolio pattern of today creating further transmission needs as well as stability concerns. Another interesting aspect of renewables, hydro excluded, is natural intermittency. Solar or wind energy is hard to predict and therefore difficult to schedule, in the traditional sense, in the power dispatch planning.
Looking at renewable energy sources from a grid perspective it is not unrealistic to conclude that appropriate transmission infrastructure is needed to maintain grid stability and reliability. We need to overcome long distances – from generation to load – but also interconnect countries and grids in order to share power and spinning reserves.
All this so that we can fully utilize what we are currently investing greatly in – sustainable energy. Considering distances, capacity and performance requirements is where HVDC solutions come in. Having been around for nearly 60 years, this technology is well suited to help meet these challenges. Not only do HVDC systems enable low loss transmission but they also add system stability to our grids making them more resilient to unexpected contingencies.
Moving forward, HVDC technology will play a key role in our ambition to ensure a sustainable planet through integration of renewable energy sources and will also facilitate trade between countries and grids.