Birmingham develops solution to power blackouts

The University of Birmingham is developing technology that could protect the UK and other countries from national electricity blackouts.

Britain currently has a high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) transmission links with neighbouring countries, including France, Ireland, Holland and Norway which is an efficient way of transporting electricity but makes the network vulnerable to alternating-current (AC) faults.

Scientists at Birmingham have developed a solution using controllable capacitors that will ensure the system would never have to be shut down – eliminating the risk of power blackouts.

Birmingham’s proposed approach involves converting DC power into AC power, which would help to make the system more reliable, as unlike existing line commutated converter (LCC) HVDC technology, the proposed ‘Flexible LCC HVDC’ is not vulnerable to AC faults.

Earlier this month, the UK suffered its worst power blackouts in over a decade which shut down train stations, airports and traffic management systems.

Xiao-Ping Zhang, Professor of Electrical Power Systems and Smart Grid Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, said: ‘The electrical power superhighway is already happening and more HVDC transmission links are in the pipeline.

‘Existing solutions to the problem of AC vulnerability work in some situations, but not in others.

‘Our approach is fundamentally different and solves the problem completely. It works whatever the situation, keeping HVDCs operational and bringing the system back to normal very quickly – it will always avoid having to shut down the system.’

The technology was showcased at the recent Purple Mountain International Forum on Smart Grid Protection and Operation Control, in Nanjing, China.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

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