Lightning, Corona and Cameos: A Peek into BPA’s High-Voltage Lab

Nov. 4, 2014
Step inside the Bonneville Power Administration’s high-voltage lab to see science fiction-like phenomena.

The Bonneville Power Administration’s high-voltage lab in Vancouver, Washington, U.S., is a one-of-a-kind asset. It features a cascade transformer that can produce up to 1.1 million V, which allows BPA to test the performance of insulators, hot sticks, transformers, capacitors, bushings and other equipment under higher voltages. The lab can also produce lightning with an impulse generator to ensure conductor and other transmission equipment can withstand lightning strikes.

In addition to performance and quality assurance tests, failure analysis and safety investigations, the lab serves as an industry and regional resource, hosting studies and hundreds of visitors each year. And earlier this year, the lab performed several lightning demonstrations for a live broadcast on NBC’s “Today” show. It also appeared in the third season of “Portlandia” as a backdrop in the "Blackout" episode. And it has been featured by Discovery Channel Canada and other news media outlets.

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