Press release | 21.4.2015
Munich/Stockholm, 21 April 2015 - The modern world needs electricity, a lot of it. Europe alone consumes several thousand terawatt hours per year, and rising. Besides nuclear power and finite fossil energy sources, renewable energy is becoming increasingly important. The biggest challenge: renewable power generation sources are usually located far away from the places of consumption. The revolutionary technology of Swedish engineer Gunnar Asplund has made the underground transmission of power over long distances possible, while making it more reliable and efficient. For his ground-breaking work, Asplund has been named one of three finalists in the industry category for the 2015 European Inventor Award. The awards will be handed out by the European Patent Office (EPO) on 11 June in Paris for the 10th time.
Gunnar Asplund has played a
significant role in making HVDC technology the new standard for transmitting
power reliably, below ground and over long distances," said
EPO President Benoît Battistelli, announcing the European Inventor Award 2015 finalists. "With HVDC Light technology we are able to secure the supply and sustainability of high voltage transmission today - without needing to install overhead power lines. Asplund's invention also brings us a huge leap forward in the integration of renewable energy, as it finally makes possible the advanced integration of "green electricity" into the power grid."
The impact of the growing expansion of power grids on the environment is increasingly becoming a concern. Asplund's HVDC Light technology offers numerous environmental benefits, including cables instead of overhead power lines and more compact converter stations. These qualities make Asplund's solution highly attractive for the necessary expansion of the power grid. Its success is due to lower-loss, more cost efficient transmission of high voltage direct current (DC) through underground and underwater cables. Up until now, this was a problem: underground cables were unsuited for the transmission of alternating current (AC) over large distances. Now, thanks to HVDC Light, it is no longer necessary that the power source be near the place of consumption, which makes Asplund's solution a game-changer not only for its ability to integrate renewable energy sources but also because it is able to harbour complete supply via solar, wind and hydroelectric power. Supplying southern Europe with electricity from wind and hydroelectric power generated in the north while at the same time transporting solar power from the south to the north for consumption is finally possible. "It would be technically possible to use renewables to cover Europe's whole electricity demand by 2030," says Gunnar Asplund. Furthermore, the challenge of storing excess solar power during intensive sun periods is also solved: generated power can travel thousands of kilometres to consumers where it can be used.
Asplund's technology not only minimises environmental impact, it also improves the quality of the power supply. His work has focused on further developing the standard HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) technology in use since the 1950s to improve its efficiency. Most significant was his development of HVDC Light: a voltage source converter (VSC) that speeds up the integration of alternating current and direct current power infrastructure.
With the help of an arrangement of air isolated semiconductor valves for higher voltage and performance, HVDC Light makes the reliable and underground transmission of electricity possible over long distances, including large areas of water. HVDC Light makes HVDC networks with power capability in multi-Gigawatt range possible. The converters developed by Asplund have a decisive advantage over existing solutions, making his technology a breakthrough: integrated semiconductors that quickly and automatically shut off in case of a power surge, a feature that helps to prevent damage caused by power surges. In comparison to the previous HVDC options, the more compact voltage converter and thinner cables considerably reduce the size and space needed by the power lines.
Asplund sums up the advantages of the technology: "If you want to transmit a lot of power and use traditional AC you need many transmission lines. But if you go to HVDC you can reduce the number of lines considerably. Should you go even further and use HVDC light you can take away the transmission lines and go underground which saves nature." Today, HVDC Light is used extensively to connect wind parks to power grids and to supply islands with power.
Asplund worked for more than 35
years at ABB, the multinational technology group and leader in the power
industry. Over the years he has been granted more than 50 patents in the area
of HVDC, further developing the technology to what it is today and creating a
new standard for reliable and underground power transmission over long
distances. Since its implementation at the end of the 1990s, Asplund's patented
HVDC Light technology
has helped generate billions of euros in sales. The industry is currently worth around
EUR 8 billion and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 17 per cent until 2018. Asplund's work has won him several awards including an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and the distinguished Lamm Prize from the IEEE Power Engineering Society for his advancements in the field of HVDC technology. In all, he individually holds 52 patents and has been involved in a total of 187 patents.
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