Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Direct current, another option to improve the electrical power transmission


A UPV/EHU engineering group has optimized the technology for converting alternating current lines to direct current ones

Even though today most of the electricity transmission lines are alternating current ones, in some cases direct current lines are also used. And researchers are becoming aware that in some cases direct current lines are more suitable than alternating current ones. In this area, the GISEL research group of the Department of Electrical Engineering of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country has been working to improve the technology needed for this conversion. The aim has been that this transmission should be done in a more straightforward, smoother and consequently less expensive way.

Electricity is normally transmitted by means of alternating current, but it is not the only way and not always the best one. In some cases, high voltage direct current (HVDC) is used. In Spain, for example, there is only one direct current line, the one that connects mainland Spain with the Balearic Islands; all the remaining ones transmit electricity by means of alternating current.

In fact, "direct current continues to be highly suitable for underwater and underground lines," asserted Marene Larruskain, one of the engineers in the UPV/EHU's GISEL group. Furthermore "less investment is needed to build direct current lines, and there are fewer losses in electricity transmission. "However, as most of the lines in the power grid are alternating current ones, converters are needed to change the type of electricity transmission, and they are very costly. "That is why direct current lines are appropriate beyond a certain length," specified Larruskain. And this is in fact the use that is made of high voltage direct current lines, to transmit electricity over very long distances; indeed, the longest lines that exist are direct current ones. "There are facilities worldwide thattransmit direct current electricity.The typical examples are the transmission lines of large hydraulic power stations: the Itaipu power station in South America, the Three Gorges power station in China, etc.

Bearing in mind that right now most of the transmission of electricity is done by means of alternating current lines, "our aim is in no way to replace these lines by direct current ones. Our proposal is based on using direct current as a solution in cases where there are problems with the alternating current lines," explained Larruskain. Renewable energies could could an example of this. Renewable energies are produced in a very irregular way; the wind, for example, could blow very strongly at some moments and very lightly in others.And the output may not coincide with moments of peak energy consumption.

"One way of solving the problem caused by this situation for the electricity supply could be to connect the farms or parks of various countries where renewables are produced. That way, if at one moment one region has a high consumption of energy but is not producing renewable energy, its demand could be metby using renewable energy which is being produced somewhere else," explained the researcher. As there is a global grid, the variability in production of renewables could be balanced. The UPV/EHU's GISEL group is proposing that these global grids should be direct current ones.

The aim, to assist transmission
The GISEL group is working to improve the energy exchange converters between direct current lines and alternating current ones.Specifically, they are working on new technology for converters known as VSCs (Voltage Source Converters).Compared with conventional technology, "the VSC has many advantages; among others, it is easier to control the power that is transmitted, and that is very important on wind farms, for example. At the same time, given the fact that direct current has great economic advantages in underwater lines, it is very appropriate for them."

However, VSC technology has a number of drawbacks: firstly, its capacity to transmit energy is lower, the energy losses are greater and it does not respond well when problems arise. For example, if there is a short circuit, the system has problems. That is why "we're working to minimize those problems," explained the researcher.

Secondly, the researchers want to make use of the advantages of both means of transmitting electricity to be able to address growing power consumption. And it is a fact that "even though more and more energy is being produced to meet the demand, problems may arise when it comes to transmitting that energy. It is not always possible to incorporate the surplus energy produced into the already existing lines owing to their limits. In these cases, the use of direct current could solve the problem of the alternating current lines already installed, because, among other things, the HVDC lines can transmit more electrical power," explained Larruskain.

The GISEL research group has studied how to make the features of the alternating current and direct current lines compatible. The electricity lines of alternating current are three-phase. For example, the number of conductors are three, or multiples of that number. On the other hand, HVDC lines have two poles: a positive one and a negative one. "How are we going to divide two poles into three conductors?" wondered Larruskain. If we use one pole for each phase, one of the conductors of the original line will remain free and part of the power will be lost. That is why a line and a half of alternating current corresponds to each pole of direct current. Even though it looks impossible, there are various ways of making this distribution.

"In the future HVDC grids are expected to coexist with alternating current grids, which are in the majority nowadays.Transmitting direct current via the currently existing lines could be a first step towards building HVDC grids," explained the UPV/EHU engineer.

Additional information
This study was conducted in the Department of Electrical Engineering of the University School of Mining and Public Works Engineering.The head of the department is Professor Inmaculada Zamora, and the research group is made up of the PhD holders Marene Larruskain, Oihane Abarrategui and Araitz Iturregi. The group has published six papers in several scientific journals and has given as many presentations in connection with this subject.What is more,they have filed two patents in Spain:one for a current limiting device, and another for a device to limit the voltage in converter stations.

M. Larruskain, I. Zamora, O. Abarrategui, A. Iturregi. January 2014. "VSC-HVDC configurations for converting AC distribution lines into DC lines". International Journal of Electrical Power & Energy Systems54: 589 -597 040 0142-0615
M. Larruskain, I. Zamora, O. Abarrategui, A. Iturregi. 2013. "A Solid-State Fault Current Limiting Device for VSC-HVDC Systems". International Journal of Emerging Electric Power Systems, Volume 14, Issue 5: 375-384, ISSN (online version) 1553-779X, ISSN (print) 2194-5756, DOI: 10.1515/ijeeps-2013-0017.

Matxalen Sotillo | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Electrical Engineering HVDC ISSN electricity lines means underwater voltage

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>