INTELEC 2014 – HVDC Demo Shows Architecture is Ready for Prime-Time

October 20, 2014

Maurizio Salto VicorINTELEC 2014 was the place where many companies showcased advances in HVDC power distribution. We caught up with Maurizio Salato, Vicor’s director, power systems engineering after the show to find out what he thought of this year’s event.


How did INTELEC 2014 differ from previous years?

This time the conference was a little lower-key than previous years: although a beautiful city, Vancouver was less convenient for travel than previous locations and so the attendance didn’t seem as strong. However there was one very noticeable change, almost all the major telecommunications operators participated. This not only shows the acceptance of HVDC as the right power distribution architecture for many applications, but also that telecoms companies realize they need to upgrade and update their equipment.


This year Vicor participated in a demonstration system. Can you tell us how this was received?

Previously the focus has been on explaining technology, so it was great to be part of a demonstration that included equipment from vendors such as IBM, Anderson Power Products, Universal Electric and Emerson Network Power. The system also included accessories such as power strips and connectors, as well as the Vicor power components that enable HVDC systems.

The demonstration generated lots of interest: showing two full-sized racks of equipment was a very powerful way to show that HVDC is ready for deployment.


What other parts of the ecosystem were on show at the event?

There were a wide variety of components in addition to those in our demo. In particular visitors could see that the infrastructure for HVDC is maturing: there are more and more companies offering 400 / 600 V switchgear; solid state protection devices are now available as an alternative to expensive hydraulic products; and HVDC is now supported by telemetry systems and data center management software.


Do companies still have reservations about deploying HVDC?

Yes, there is still some fear. The demo, however, took away many of these concerns. Not only did seeing real hardware make the technology feel more familiar, but it also allowed people to see that in many aspects it’s not that different from conventional AC distribution. In fact 48 V DC distribution is less like familiar AC than HVDC.


What else struck you about the show?

It was interesting that people were talking about experiences of HVDC deployment: in previous years most people were discussing plans, but now there are a lot of companies who have HVDC systems running. One example was the NTT microgrid system in Japan: attendees saw the system being monitored in real time. It was possible to see batteries being charged using low-cost electricity at night, and then solar panels taking over during the day. There were electric cars being charged and a full office being powered. All of this was based on a 380 V HVDC distribution “spine”.

Interestingly, achieving the same thing using AC would have been impractical at a reasonable cost due to the challenges of controlling frequency, ensuring stability and dealing with reactive power: HVDC made the system simpler and cheaper.


Finally what do you expect from the next INTELEC?

The next show will be in Osaka, Japan and I’m really excited about it. I believe that HVDC will be seen as a mainstream technology, with even more deployment stories and a much larger number of equipment vendors supporting the technology. Most of all, however, I’m looking forward to hearing how much money companies are saving because of HVDC.


Maurizio also talked about some of the conference papers at the show – click here to read about his favorite presentations.

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