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How to deal with new technology being introduced in the power system

One of the challenges in transmission and distribution is the safe and reliable introduction of new technology in the power system. As a key performance indicator of the grid is reliability, you can imagine that ideally only “proven” technology should be introduced.

This is where the challenge comes in: How do you de-risk new technology? Potential and proven solutions are testing in the laboratory and piloting in the field. Notice that this cannot be done for big and expensive technology solutions, e.g., the development of offshore substations that are needed to connect remote offshore wind farms to the grid on land. A typical ballpark figure for a large offshore substation, able to connect in the order of 800MW wind power, is in the range of 1-2 billion USD.

As offshore wind farms are being built farther from the coast, and more offshore oil and gas installations are powered from shore, there will be an increasing need for long distance underwater power transmission in the future. Use of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) technology allows power transmission over longer distances and higher capacities, compared to what is feasible with AC transmission. However, many industry players still consider these technologies to constitute an unacceptable risk, due to the limited experience of combining the existing technologies—HVDC and offshore platform technology—in this new application and the lack of relevant standards.

A possible solution is the qualification of new technology (see Figure 1), this is a well known technique that has been used in, for example, the oil and gas industry for over a decade. It is the process of providing the evidence that the technology will function within specified limits with an acceptable level of confidence. It is a joint effort of all parties involved in the project, and is equally suited for new technology as well as introducing existing technology in a new application.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Qualification of new technology

DNV GL and the Swedish Transmission Research Institute (STRI) have together—in addition to ten other industry players in a joint industry project—developed a new recommended practice for technology qualification of offshore HVDC technologies.

With his recommended practice the industry is able to accelerate the deployment of new HVDC offshore substation technology for grid integration of remote offshore wind farms and powering offshore oil and gas installations and contribute to a safer and sustainable future power system.

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