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ABB commissions world’s highest capacity HVDC Light underwater power link

ABB has delivered the East West Interconnector to EirGrid, the Irish transmission system operator. The 500-megawatt (MW) HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) Light transmission connection is the highest capacity link of its kind, based on voltage source converter (VSC) technology, to go into commercial operation.

The interconnector establishes an important link between the Irish and UKgrids, enabling cross-border power flows and enhancing grid reliability and security of electricity supplies. The new link also facilitates power trading between the two countries and connects Ireland to the European grid. As Ireland expands its wind power capacity, it can export surplus electricity to the UK, and can import power when required.

A 262 km (163 mi) cable system connects Woodland in County Meath, Ireland and Deeside in north Wales. The cables are equipped with extruded polymeric insulation that provides strength and flexibility to endure the severe conditions of the Irish Sea. HVDC Light’s “black start” capability can help restore power quickly in the event of an outage, without the aid of external energy sources.

ABB pioneered HVDC technology nearly 60 years ago and has been awarded around 90 HVDC projects representing a total installed capacity of more than 95,000 megawatts (MW), accounting for about half the global installed base.

The classical HVDC technique was first introduced in Sweden (Gotland link) in 1954 by ASEA (a founding company of ABB). Typically, a classical HVDC transmission has a power of more than 100 Megawatt (MW) and many are in the 1,000 - 3,000 MW range. There are classical HVDC transmissions that use overhead lines and that use undersea (and underground) cables (or combinations of cables and lines).

HVDC Light is a fundamentally new power transmission technology developed by ABB in the 1990s. HVDC Light uses underground or submarine cables. The technology extends the economical power range of HVDC transmission down to just a few tens of Megawatts (MW). In the upper range, the technology can reach 1,200 MW and ±320 kV.

One of the characteristics of HVDC Light is its superior ability to stabilize the AC voltage at the terminals, according to ABB. This is particularly important for wind parks, where the variation in wind speed can cause severe voltage fluctuations.

It is increasingly being deployed across a range of applications including integration of renewable energies from land-based and offshore wind farms; mainland power supply to islands and offshore oil and gas platforms; city center in-feeds where space is a major constraint; and interconnections, often across the seas. ABB leads the way in this space, and has delivered 13 of the 14 commissioned HVDC links based on VSC technology.



They brought it in as the amount of (nominal) wind energy reached about 30% of the grid capacity, so they can balance the grid with the UK grid, which is about 12 times larger.

They may do a second one, + they are talking about a "greenwire" project to export 3GW of wind to the UK on a dedicated line. The plan for that is to use wind turbines designed to work at lower wind speeds (i.e. higher towers) from the midlands of Ireland (where the peat bogs used to be).
So we would have about 1000 extra windmills in the midlands.
[ I wonder is this a good thing ? ]

However, linking the two grids together is a good thing.

For the record, we had 12 days in a row in July 2013 where the wind was < 5% of its nominal, so it doesn't say much about security of supply.


mahonj -

"For the record, we had 12 days in a row in July 2013 where the wind was < 5% of its nominal, so it doesn't say much about security of supply."

I am assuming that this is not normal for July - right? From what I heard Ireland actually had a summer this July. :-) If that continues then maybe Solar will work there.

"The new link also facilitates power trading between the two countries and connects Ireland to the European grid."

It will be interesting to see if Ireland eventually start getting some of its power from other parts of Europe.

Are all the peat bogs used up? Based on the economy over there I bet it will be hard to turn down any kind of economic development.


@Joe, yes, it was unusual for July, we would not normally have such a long wind free period.

I can;t really see solar doing very much as we do not have a reliably sunny climate and at 53 degrees north, the sun angle varys a lot, and there is very little sun all winter.

On the other hand, PV panels are getting so cheap that it might be worth it to put some in, but you then end up with 4 ways of generating electricity:

Fossil ( the way we used to do it)
Imports via the interconnector

With the interconnector we can now buy electricity from the UK (and we do). As the UK's market is about 12 times larger than Ireland's, we rarely need to go further than there for some juice.

The peat bogs are not "used up" but you could hardly think of a worse way of generating electricity from a CO2 / KwH point of view. The only benefit is employment in the midlands and security of (small scale) supply. (It is easier to stockpile coal if you want security of supply).

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