US-Canadian HVDC Transmission

New transmission is a major issue and permitting is complex, time-consuming, and expensive. Overhead HV often takes 5-7 years to permit. HVDC lines take far less time, because they are laid underground and require only a small right-of-way, which speeds up the process to a two- to three-year average. Such lines also don’t have cooling or freezing issues and are now increasingly used under-sea.

The IPP Sea Breeze Power is completing permitting of the $750 million Juan de Fuca Cable (JFC) that will connect Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington state — and with it the US Pacific Northwest — with Victoria and the British Columbia power grid. The new sea floor HVDC Light line will enable a more efficient import/export handling between the Bonneville Power and BC Hydro transmission networks and provide a third bi-directional connection between western Canada and the US. This will help stabilize power on the grid and make electricity more reliable for commercial and residential users from three US states and BC.

JFC is using the latest DC transmission technology from ABB, which generates a fraction of the materials cost and carbon footprint of AC and does not require cooling for under-sea lines — the dirty, buried secret of the utilities. The cable also makes allowances for earthquake-prone fault lines by providing slack in its underground routing.

The new line will be built and used using an innovative shared revenue model between the project owners and the two utilities.

Article by Stephan Burckhardt, a cleantech, high-tech brand and marketing consultant based in British Columbia.

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