Alstom Grid has won the contract, worth at least 150 million Euros, to deliver the High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) converter to the Tres Amigas Superstation.
The 750 megawatt/345 kilovolt converter will play at central role at Tres Amigas. The station -- to be located near Clovis, New Mexico -- will connect the Eastern, Western and Texas interconnects, thereby giving the U.S. the semblance of a national grid. Overall, the project will cost more than $600 million. Ideally, the station will make it easier to integrate renewables into the grid, as well as to swap power from one region to the other. All that wind power in Texas that gets generated at night can now get shipped to the Las Vegas Strip.
Another expected benefit from Tres Amigas: fewer blackouts. In the last 20 years, blackouts have increased 124 percent in the United States.
Construction begins next year and ideally it will become operational in 2014. CH2M Hill will oversee construction and a list of the participants reads like the program from Battle of the Smart Grid Stars.
"The three grids are like three giant ocean liners that you are attempting to tie together," Randy Connett, T&D services head at CH2M Hill told us last year.
It also lays the groundwork for expanding HVDC in the U.S., a technology that's gaining ground in Europe and Asia and that will likely play a key role in integrating resources like offshore wind here. Wind and solar farms produce DC power, so HVDC cuts down on the losses that occur when converting that DC power to AC power that the grid can transmit. Line losses on HVDC are also lower. The three U.S. grids will still deliver AC power to your home. HVDC will be used in the transmissions between them.
Two-line HVDC transmission systems can also be less expensive than three-line AC systems, particularly in situations where power must travel hundreds of miles. Another advantage of HVDC lines: they can significantly simplify the siting process and they can be built underground or underwater over long distances with little line loss.
ABB built the first 200-mile,100-kilovolt, 20-megawatt DC line in Sweden in the 1950s. China built a 1,200-megawatt capacity DC project in the late 1980s to deliver remote hydroelectric power to burgeoning urban populations.
There are now more than 145 working or pending HVDC projects worldwide.