ABB breakthrough a significant boost for renewables

Swiss engineering giant ABB (NYSE: ABB) has announced a breakthrough technological advance set to lead to the wider exploitation of renewable power.

Schemes designed to harvest power generated by offshore wind farms, remote hydroelectric plants and desert-based solar projects have been continually foiled by a lack of heavy-duty circuit breakers capable of safely handling the extreme voltage levels required for direct current (DC) transmission over long distances.

Joe Hogan of ABB
However the Swiss group have developed circuit breakers capable of enabling long distance DC output to be easily integrated into existing local and national power grids, which are based on the more robust alternating current (AC) system.

Joe Hogan, CEO of ABB told FT, “This historical breakthrough will make it possible to build the grid of the future. Overlay DC grids will be able to interconnect countries and continents, balance loads and reinforce the existing AC transmission networks.”

Brice Koch, head of power systems at ABB, said that solving the puzzle was equivalent to “bringing a speeding 40-tonne truck to a halt within five milliseconds”.

The technology currently being used has held back operators’ ability efficiently to pool and distribute the output of remotely produced wind power, and DC transmission had a tendency to bring down entire grid systems through localised disruptions.

The breakthrough by ABB could bring such subsea and cross-border transmission schemes a step closer.

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