Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

High-voltage DC power lines can efficiently transport electricity over thousands of kilometers and for long distances underwater, outperforming the AC lines that dominate transmission grids now. But for a century, AC prevailed because high-voltage DC could be used only for point-to-point transmission, not to form the integrated grid networks needed for a stable electricity system.

The Swiss conglomerate ABB has solved the main technical hurdle to such grids. It has developed a practical high-voltage DC circuit breaker that disconnects parts of the grid that have a problem, allowing the rest to keep working.

DC grids would be more efficient at connecting far-flung sources of renewable energy, allowing utilities to average out local variations in wind and solar power while bringing power to areas without much sunshine or wind. Solar power from the Sahara could power cloudy Germany, and wind power from all over Europe could keep the lights on at night. The result: more reliable renewable energy that can better compete with fossil fuels.

A simulation center develops controls for DC grids.

 

ABB workers at a DC-to-AC conversion station.

 

12 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credits: ABB

Tagged: Energy, renewable energy, solar, wind, 10 Breakthrough Technologies, TR10 2013, ABB

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me