An egg-citing trip to Rio

Some perspective on the world’s longest high-voltage direct current (HVDC) link – connecting north Brazil with cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

At 2,375 kilometers, the Rio Madeira link – commissioned just this summer – is a world record-breaker in terms of length and it evokes a sense of scale in many ways. As senior project director for Rio Madeira, my position regularly takes me back and forth between Brazil and the HVDC unit in Ludvika, Sweden, something of a distance both in terms of kilometers and culture. During the long hours in the air I like to let my thoughts fly as well, trying to comprehend the extent of what it means to supply more than 10 million people with electricity. From my Swedish point of view that is an immense thought, considering it is more than the total population of my own country.

São Paulo has about 15 million citizens. Let’s play with the thought that half of them have an egg for breakfast. This means that some 7,500,000 eggs need to be laid, packed and then distributed to the different neighborhoods, blocks and streets only to end up in a frying pan or boiled for seven minutes, every day. By observing such a small, ordinary action one can understand how much power the complete city, including industry, needs to function over an average day.

The Madeira River is a flood of energy and a tributary to the great Amazon River. It is from here that ABB’s Rio Madeira link transmits power to all those who want an egg for breakfast. Using HVDC technology, we can turn the electricity into a large movement of magnetism; in the end this makes it possible for you and me to just turn on the stove and get heat. It is a truly amazing experience to be part of this operation taming such great masses of water.

In a project like Rio Madeira the team undoubtedly includes a lot of committed members. An enormous amount of knowledge is needed to supply such a large community with electricity. The Swedish side offers experts on HVDC transmission and engineers with extensive experience; in Brazil a highly skilled team works on operational issues that require rapid solutions. Even though it is a long trip culture-wise between Sweden and Brazil, it has been exciting to witness how the two sides have made the differences, and similarities, work and how this kind of collaboration is key to success.

After long hours at work I like to hit the streets of Rio for a while. There is a small restaurant called BipBip where local musicians entertain every night. The restaurant itself is so small that only the musicians fit inside; the guests have to stand outside in the street. The place is run by a man with real character, who somehow succeeds in getting these elite musicians to come and play at his restaurant. The restaurant is a gift for those who can find it, and it helps me, just like the eggs, to make the connection between the simple man and the need for great projects like Rio Madeira.



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About the author

Leif Carlzon

I’m Senior Project Director for the Rio Madeira high-voltage direct current link, which was commissioned in August 2014. I hold a Master of Science degree in advanced banking and I have been with ABB since 1987 in different roles and countries, including many years working in ABB’s Transformer business.
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