Since the start of the "Digital Innovations Center of Excellence," we have had a history column, and it will continue, but this month I’m going to change that a bit to storytelling. After talking with Ram Adapa, our feature column author, this month, I have been thinking about the DC grid he wrote about. That got me thinking about the hybrid DC breaker, which makes a DC grid possible. And that got me thinking about the first time I ran into an actual DC hybrid breaker. Several years ago, I got lucky, really lucky. As T&D World’s technology writer, I was invited to go on an HVDC European tour by ABB. Being an experienced HVDC engineer also helped.
My travels took me to ABB’s R&D facilities in Switzerland and Sweden. I met with power electronics experts throughout the ABB organization. I was encouraged to ask any questions I could think of and see all of the new technologies they were working on. For an HVDC engineer like myself, it was better than going to Disneyland for a six-year old. The technology came fast and furious and it was much like trying to sip water from a firehose, but what an opportunity! During this time, ABB’s hybrid DC circuit breaker was undergoing functional testing in Sweden. ABB was also performing simulations of HVDC networks.
A short time later Alstom (now part of GE Grid) invited me to visit their HVDC Excellence Center in Stafford, England. They wanted me to see everything they were doing with their power electronics R&D. Alstom had something unique they wanted to show me, a fully functional voltage source converter (VSC) as part of their factory’s power system. It gave their engineers a chance to tinker with the technology. Amazing as that was, what really got my attention was the supergrid discussion and the fact I ran into another hybrid DC breaker undergoing testing. The hybrid DC breaker was an idea whose time had come, and these two companies were pushing the technological envelope. Today we are enjoying the fruits of these manufacturers’ labor and the DC grid is a possibility because of this work. Today there are studies taking place in Europe and the United States for developing this type of grid. It is an interesting time. Below are ABB’s and GE Grid’s DC hybrid breaker videos – enjoy.