HVDC: Piping in the Sun, to a City near you?

If only we could take all that Solar Energy baking the World's Deserts,

Bottle it up, (using modern technology),

and send it to the Metropolitan areas, that run on Energy.

Guess what, the ingenious scientists and technicians of European Union are drawing up the plans, to do just that!

The EU has been taking Global Warming much more seriously as a Planetary Crisis, than the US has, for many years now -- maybe it's finally a good time to start following their lead?

No sense in re-inventing the wheel ... when you don't have to!

The Supergrid Initiative - e-Parliament (pdf)

     The German Aerospace Centre’s studies for the German Government looked at the potential of solar thermal power in the Europe-Mediterranean region. They concluded that this single energy source could provide a substantial part of the region's energy, using high voltage direct-current (HVDC) powerlines to transport the energy with very little loss from southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to northern and central Europe.

More than 90% of humanity lives within 3,000 kilometres of a desert. In the same way as in the Europe-Mediterranean region, HVDC power lines could bring energy to virtually all parts of the world.

Here's the nearly Limitless natural resource, vast Deserts:

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Those are some mighty small Footprints to meet those awefully large Power Demands!

Concentrated solar power plants in North Africa could supply Europe
By David Weight - July 2008

     Globally, the best renewable resource is solar energy. North Africa receives about three times the solar energy of the UK. Every year each square kilometre of hot deserts receive solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil (about 240 million litres).

Solar factories can tap into this using concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. These are quite different from photovoltaics, and use mirrors to concentrate sunlight to create heat which is used to raise steam to drive steam turbines and electricity generators. An area of just 127km x 127km covered with CSP plants would produce as much electricity as Europe is using now.

Two German scientists, Dr Gerhard Knies and Dr Franz Trieb, calculate that just 0.5% of the world’s hot deserts, if covered with CSP plants, could generate as much electricity as the world now uses. One square mile of desert will generate as much electricity as 100 square miles of biofuel crops.

The Supergrid Initiative - e-Parliament (pdf)

     More than 90% of humanity lives within 3,000 kilometres of a desert. In the same way as in the Europe-Mediterranean region, HVDC power lines could bring energy to virtually all parts of the world.

It's more than just a Pipe Dream -- it's a system of "Pipes and Mirrors" that focuses the sun light, and boils the water, to run the turbines.

And, it's proven Technology too.

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The main hold up, has been moving that "bottled" Solar Electricity, to distant Cities, without serious loss of Power during the transmission. Legacy AC Grid technology, has huge power losses, over long distances. BUT what those Techie Europeans have discovered, is that the Electricity transmission problems can be minimized, by simply "sending" the Power using High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) lines.

SO ... the EU Countries are moving ahead with Plans to build that HVDC Supergrid, and to start "piping in" all that "Free, Clean, Green Energy", just going to waste, in the Desert:

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The technical details about WHY Electricity moves more efficiently with HVDC, compared to AC, are quite interesting. The Supergrid Initiative pdf goes into a lot of detail about it, but briefly:

     Traditional low voltage AC lines lose large amounts of electricity in long distance transmission, because electricity is dissipated as heat due to the resistance of the conductors. High voltage lines require less surface area for transmission, which results in less heat being created, and therefore less transmission loss. [Howerver] High Voltage Alternating Current (HVAC) lines remain inefficient over long distances.

The Economics of HVDC, vs traditional Low Voltage AC lines (18th Century Tech), is a much more relevant factor. It's THE Constraining Factor for AC:

The Supergrid Initiative - e-Parliament (pdf)

     HVDC lines are already economically attractive when used over
long distances, costs are likely to decrease even further as the cost of
static inverters and other hardware comes down.

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But will it work? Does HVDC have enough of a "track record", to Link all those Areas of "Power Supply", with all those Areas of "Power Demands"?

With all the diverse Corporate and National interest in HVDC, Smart-Super-Grids, it may indeed enable the Green Energy Age much quicker than anyone realizes?

Here are some real world Examples of HVDC being put to the test:

HVDC goes global

     HVDC had an enormous and immediate impact on how power transmission was conceived. The British and French power authorities, who were planning a power transmission system across the English Channel, abandoned a proposal to use AC cables and chose ABB’s HVDC alternative instead.

Other authorities followed suit. Within a decade, ABB had supplied HVDC transmission systems linking Sweden and Denmark, the South and North Islands of New Zealand, Italy and Sardinia, and Oregon and Los Angeles.

ABB provides HVDC transmission technology for offshore wind farms

     September 15, 2008 - ABB is providing the technology that will enable a unit of E.ON, Germany's biggest utility, to link the world’s largest offshore wind farm to the German power grid at minimal impact to the environment.

The 400-megawatt (MW) wind farm, located 130 kilometers from the coast in the North Sea, is expected to save carbon dioxide emissions of 1.5 million tons per year by avoiding the need for additional fossil-fuel generation.
The main attraction of going offshore is the enormous wind resource available. Average wind speeds can be 20 percent higher than on land, and the resulting energy yield from wind farms as much as 70 percent higher.

While three-phase alternating current (AC) links are a cost-effective way to connect small offshore wind farms near the coast to the electricity network, HVDC Light has emerged as the technology of choice for more distant offshore parks.

Power can be fully controlled using HVDC Light, so that the intermittent electricity supply from a wind farm cannot disrupt the grid. An HVDC Light transmission system can also be started from a powerless state, for example if the wind hasn’t been blowing at all, and very little electricity is lost during transmission, even over long distances.

Even China, is using HVDC transmission lines, to try to go Green:

Power Transmission and Distribution (PTD)

     We’re opening up a new dimension in HVDC technology with the construction of the world’s largest high-voltage direct-current transmission system. When completed, this 800-kV low-loss link will stretch some 1,400 kilometers across China – from hydropower plants in Yunnan to the industrial region of Guangdong Province. With a capacity of 5,000 MWs, the system will eliminate the need for new fossil fuel plants that would spew more than 30 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.
For example, our recently launched HVDC Plus solution offers a low-loss, ecofriendly transmission link that intelligently connects offshore wind farms with mainland power grids. And it’s not only in the HVDC sector that we’re a trendsetter. As an active participant in the European Smart Grid Initiative, we’ve already developed the technologies needed to make intelligent power networks a reality.

HVDC and FACTS Technologies

     In the second half of the last century, high-power DC transmission technology was introduced, offering new dimensions for long-distance transmission of power. ... Transmission ratings of 3 GW over large distances with only one bipolar DC line have become state-of-the-art in many grids today. The world’s first 800-kV DC project in China has a transmission rating of 5 GW, and future projects at 6 GW and higher are at the construction or planning stage.

SO ... when will the USA, Get with the HVDC Program?

When will we take a cue from those who have gone before us, those who have done all the heavy lifting, already? US Wind Farms, US Solar Plants, and Wave Projects, all could benefit from this cost effective technology. The Eco-website The Grist has recognized the potential:

A national grid will make renewable electricity work

     It has been suggested that we use existing railroad rights of ways for long-distance HVDC transmission -- both as part of electrifying freight rail, but also as a way to create a true national grid without harming wilderness.

Since HVDC lines can be run underground, or even under water, switching over to the new Electricity Highway of the 21st Centruy, may literally just require "following" our existing Highway system!

Well the EU is moving ahead toward the Future, with or without us. Maybe it's time, we start paying attention to what they're doing, to Stop Global Warming!

Supergrid Roundtable in Paris on November 21, 2008

     Invitations have already gone out to about 50 people including legislators from the European and national parliaments, top business leaders from the renewables and grid construction industries, government officials and experts.

The meeting will focus on two themes:

* ‘how’ can a supergrid of high voltage direct current cables be built to link Europe with North Africa.

* what incentives will be required by renewable energy companies to increase their investments and supply electricity to such a grid.

Someone's got to get it done. And please no more Committees, or Demonstration Projects!

Enough already!

It's time for Action, now. It's time to get to work,
re-building our collectiveFuture.

The Planet is literally hanging in the balance ... That 10 year Window to the "tipping point" is rapidly closing!

Post Script:

     James Hansen, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and perhaps the world’s best known climate scientist, recently described a supergrid for the US as “the single most critical action” for decreasing carbon emissions. In testimony to the US Congress, he went on to say:

          The next President must make a national low-loss electric grid an imperative. It will allow dispersed renewable energies to supplant fossil fuels for power generation. Technology exists for direct-current high-voltage buried transmission lines. Trunk lines can be completed in less than a decade and expanded analogous to interstate highways.

All we need is political will

As we said at the outset, the climate challenge is not so much technical as political. To solve the problem, we have to mobilise the incentives and investments required to make the shift to clean energy, and to save the forests. New energy technology is always welcome, but no new technology is needed to save the planet -- the only thing we need is political will. Given the right legal frameworks and incentives, the private sector will do the rest. The purpose of the Supergrid Initiative is to create the necessary political will.

The Supergrid Initiative - e-Parliament (pdf)

Thank you for your time, and consideration.

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well said ...