The world’s first commercial high-voltage direct current converter station, located in New Brunswick, Canada, was recognized as an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing on Feb. 24. Built by Canadian General Electric and NB Power, the Eel River converter station offered a reliable and economical way to link adjacent power systems and thereby provide stable power transfers to customers.
Operating since 1972, Eel River was the first converter station designed and built from solid state high voltage, high current silicon solid state thyristors, (solid-state semiconductor devices). The thyristors were triggered through fiber optics, a technology that was still in its infancy at the time.
This technology enabled the Eel River station to convert alternating current generated by Hydro Quebec to direct current, and then back to alternating, providing a smooth transition to NB Power's customers. This capability also enabled NB Power generation to be exported back to New England where energy costs were higher, offering an economic advantage to the parties on both sides of the U.S. border.
Today, the Eel River High Voltage Direct Current Converter Station continues to provide safe and reliable electricity import and export capabilities. During the current Pt Lepreau Refurbishment power outage, NB Power has utilized the facility by purchasing and importing energy via the Eel River converter station. During periods when New Brunswick generation is at a surplus, NB Power or other market participants can export energy into Quebec or further markets tied with Quebec.
The IEEE Milestones in Electrical Engineering and Computing program honors significant technical achievements that occurred at least 25 years ago in technology areas associated with IEEE. To date, more than 100 Milestones have been approved and dedicated around the world.
The dedication is sponsored by the IEEE New Brunswick Section and will be held at Dineen Auditorium, Head Hall, UNB Fredericton Campus in New Brunswick, Canada. IEEE Canada President Om Malik will be one of the featured speakers, along with NB Power representatives. There are currently close to 17,000 IEEE members in Canada.