As we all know, one of the biggest obstacles to large-scale implementation of renewable energy is the loss of energy during transmission. I explored these issues in depth last year in my blog entitled “Point of Use Generation,” where I pointed out that the often-remote location of solar and wind farms necessitates the construction of additional power lines over large swathes of land, power lines that are probably the most inefficient method of transportation for any energy source and, therefore, end up mitigating some of the benefits of using renewable energy to begin with. In the end, the further electricity travels, the less efficient it becomes—with most of the power getting lost along the way.
But that could change if high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission technology breaks beyond its current limited usage to become a major player in energy delivery systems. Currently, HVDC is used primarily for bulk-power transfers (from remote areas to load centers) or for “back-to-back asynchronous interconnection” between different grid systems (like our East and West Coast, or between the US and Canada). Because HVDC is valued for its ability to transport lots of energy over long distances, it could be the ideal solution for wind and solar farm transmission.
There are some challenges that must be overcome. The first being the need for extra-high-voltage cables to replace current transmission lines. HVDC is also more expensive to implement than traditional SC transmission. And because HVDC is specifically suited to long-distance transmission, it does not work for short distances.
So what do you think? Can HVDC’s direct current benefits make it cost-effective? As more and more opportunities for remote renewable energy generation become available, shouldn’t we be taking a closer look at HVDC? And with HVDC’s superior control—which allows you to precisely manage known power quantities—are we losing more in terms of efficiency by not actively planning for its incorporation in any smart grid system?