Power transmission: How to build a real supergrid by making existing electricity lines more efficient at transmitting power
GERMANY has a problem. The decision, taken in 2011, to close down the country’s nuclear-power stations risks leaving parts of the country with insufficient supplies of electricity. This means power will have to be brought in from elsewhere. But to do that seems, on the face of things, to require the building of new transmission lines, which will be unpopular with those they pass by.
One alternative is to make better use of existing lines. In theory, the simplest way of doing so would be to run direct current through them, instead of the existing alternating current. AC transmission has long dominated most grids because the higher voltages needed to boost energy transfer can be more readily stepped up and down again. But AC suffers transmission losses in a way DC does not, which even in efficient euro-zone grids is around 6%. With newer technology, however, the transmission of high-voltage DC would reduce those losses and thus provide more capacity, but it is technically awkward.
Now, however, an experiment by Amprion and TransnetBW, two German electricity-transmission firms, suggests it could be easier than engineers had feared. If true, this not only solves Germany’s local problem, it could also lead to the construction of a European supergrid to carry solar energy from the sunny south, and wind energy from the stormy west, to the continent’s industrial heartlands.
The Latest on: Power transmission
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The Latest on: Power transmission
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