Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 2009
A version of this article was published in New Scientist on 12 March 2009.
Thomas Edison might have relished the irony. Just as his most famous legacy, the incandescent light bulb, heads for extinction, his other great passion, direct current, is set to boom. The bulb that dominated lighting for over a century is now a pariah of climate change and banned in many countries. Meanwhile direct current, which was defeated by alternating current in the race to establish the industry standard during the 1890s, is now emerging as crucial weapon in the fight against global warming, in the form of high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines.
Although the world’s electricity transmission grids are almost wholly AC, it is now becoming clear that HVDC will be crucial to meeting soaring electricity demand and cutting carbon emissions – by transmitting large amounts of power efficiently over long distances and connecting remote offshore wind farms. HVDC even promises to solve the vexed problem of the intermittency of wind turbines and solar panels by allowing the creation of continent-wide ‘Supergrids’, which smooth out the variable generation from many far-flung sources to create a dependable supply. Supporters claim this will make it possible to ditch coal, gas and nuclear altogether and replace them entirely with renewables within a couple of decades. ……………..
Complete article at http://www.davidstrahan.com/blog/?p=198