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High Voltage

Local versus global electrical power

Up until recently, AC Power Distribution was the most efficient way to move electrical energy about. But right back at the beginning of electricity, it wasn’t obviously the case. Thomas Edison had favoured DC voltage and current distribution but was defeated commercially by almost all other comers because the technology to do AC Voltage Transformation, the transformer, was just easier top make than a DC version based on the technology of the day.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

You can read more about this era in the War of Currents. This was the 1880’s of course. Probably the highest fundamental invention decade so far. But that is for another post.

Modern DC Power Distribution

Wind forward more than 100 years and the technology to transform DC voltage and current, at high efficiency, is mainstream. Of course the incumbent AC infrastructure is wide spread and not easily displaced. But DC is winning ground in new installations.

In Australia, Basslink is connecting Tasmanian power generators to the Victorian electricity grid using HV/DC or High Voltage DC Technology. It is now the technically superior offering.

World Power Grid

And so the new opportunities open up for sharing power across the globe. The current plans are just for grid connect. But if you consider renewable energy as a major contributor, if we have a globally connected grid then the solar power generators sun side can be supplying the night side communities and 12 hours later the other way around. If solar goes global and the grid goes global, then the fluctuating and time of day dependent power generation can be balanced out globally. What we can’t make economic in a single region, can suddenly become overwhelmingly compelling across the globe.

That will require quite a lot of collaboration and market trading beyond what has traditionally been possible, but the pay off would prove worth it. I am going ahead of what we can currently do, but I also believe this is where we have to get to.

Global Power Grid

Global Power Grid

For more information on the current state of play, check out the IEEE article on Let’s Build a Global Power Grid.

And you can be sure we will be doing all we can to support the push.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

What if we could start again

In the days when DC converters didn’t exist, it made sense to base our electrical distribution system on transformers and AC voltage level shifting. It still makes sense to distribute at high voltage where resistive losses in the wires are a smaller issue than they are at lower voltages. But if we were starting again, what would that look like?

The Grid From The Ground Up

A new approach to electricity distribution

A new formula for electrical distribution

IEEE Spectrum have published the results of discussion on just this topic and it caught my eye. We develop products for high voltage distribution including switch gear and power factor correction controllers so I also have personal knowledge of what goes into those. The full article is at The Grid From The Ground Up – What If We Could Do It Again?

A summary of the core issues we could resolve are covered below.

High Voltage Direct Current Transmission

Use High Voltage Direct Current, or HVDC, as the transmission standard. This is now possible whereas 100 years ago it was not. As much as anything this is a legacy issue. The electricity link between Tasmania and Victoria that runs under Bass Straight uses this technology for instance.

High Voltage Direct Current Distribution

HVDC Distribution

Renewables at any level

And we would design it to cope with any level of Renewable Energy sources. This is one of the inhibiting factors for the use of fluctuating energy sources and traditionally it was considered that 8% was the maximum you could have. Germany recently showed this wasn’t the case with a German Renewable Power Contribution of 59%. There is still plenty of work to do but this is an example that some of the old paradigms are not absolute limits after all.

Sources of Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy Sources


Another issue is the robustness or Resilience of the grid. This refers to the ability of the grid to recover from transients and faults. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 showed that a lack of Resilience is a major weakness. If you aren’t familiar with the incident then check out the following short video on what happened and wider implications for not having Resilience.

 Regardless of the source of the issue, we have to be able to quickly isolate faults and not lose complete grid control. A Resilient grid is a must.


This is one of the things needed for Resilience. All generation and transmission facilities should be able to communicate so that the system can be coordinated. This is sometimes referred to as the Smart Grid and a lot of work has been done to create robust, widespread and secure communications to measure and control the operation of the Electricity Grid. One example is DNP3 which is widely used by Power Factor Correction Controllers, Reclosers, Sectionalisers, RTUs and control systems to monitor and manage the Electricity Grid. 

An example of a DNP3 enabled device is the ABB CQ900R Power Factor Correction Controller which for which we received the Industrial Electronics Future Award in 2011. 

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller with DNP3

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2014 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Industrial Electronics

We are back from the Electronics News Future Awards where we were presented with our trophy for the category of Industrial Electronics. Our thanks go to ABB High Voltage Division in Lilydale for allowing our Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development of the CQ900R Smart Controller to be nominated for the Electronics News Future Awards for 2011.

Industrial Electronics Future Award 2011

We are thrilled to have been recognised for our Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development in Industrial Electronics and it shows.
Electronics News Future Awards Industrial Electronics

Future Awards Industrial Electronics Trophy

The Electronics News Future Awards are the premier Electronics Design awards in Australia, a point that was made at the awards ceremony by one of the sponsors, Kontron. Kevin Gomez, Editor of Electronics News, speaking about the winners in each category said “These 6 projects represent some of the most outstanding work being done in Australia today”.
Future Awards Industrial Electronics Trophy

Future Awards Industrial Electronics Trophy

As well as handing out trophies, there were 3 keynote speakers and a roundtable discussion on the future of Australian Electronics Manufacturing. Electronics News are covering the outcome of the discussion in detail in their October magazine. We look forward to their coverage of this very important topic.
Electronics News have recently released profiles of each of the winning entries at Future Awards 2011: The Winners and Senator the Hon Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research; declared that the companies profiled by Electronics News showed that Australia can Win The Innovation Race.
We also appreciate the support from VECCI and ManufactureLink with their coverage of this success as well as the Star News Group.  The articles are at:

And here is what the ABB CQ900R Capacitor Bank Controller for Power Factor Correction looks like:

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller

Safety in High Voltage Power Distribution

My thanks to Tim Heemskerk of ABB High Voltage Division in Lilydale for this clip.  It shows how dangerous High Voltage power can be in Electric Power Transmission Systems and why ABB take so much care in how they handle High Voltage Switching, Power Factor Correction and Fault Isolation and Reclosers in systems operating at these Elevated Voltages.  Be sure to wait for the slow motion replay at the end.  I think these guys might have seen an episode or two of Myth Busters.

For those who don’t recognise them, the rectangular boxes with terminals sticking out the top are High Voltage capacitors used for Power Factor Correction in Power Distribution systems.  They have been charged to 13.8KV and hold 9675J of energy.  The pull cord is used to close the electrical circuit and the capacitor voltage is applied to the watermelon which conducts the current and the energy released causes it to explode rather spectacularly.  Not what you want happening in a real Power Distribution scenario which is why you want Engineers who know what they are doing working on both the Engineering Design and the implementation of these High Voltage Distribution systems.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © 2010  Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.