High Voltage Engineering DC at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

This SC has two operational high voltage laboratories, one focused on direct current (DC) and the other on alternating current (AC). The combination of the two laboratories at sea level, along with a powerful real-time digital simulator (RTDS), is well situated to support Eskom with its expanding grid.

The impact of new resources, including renewable electricity sources and possibly nuclear energy, on the existing grid is important and will naturally result not only in growth, but also in a more complex grid. This will put increased pressure on South Africa to develop and consider different technologies in order to deliver electrical power efficiently and reliably.

Eskom views high voltage direct current (HVDC) systems as an enabler for future expansion of the existing grid. There are a number of potential HVDC systems, a bipole connecting the Limpopo province to Gauteng province, a separate bipole through KwaZulu-Natal, and an increase in capacity of the existing system from the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique.

The strategic plan is to develop laboratories, the intellectual competence, and the design ability of Eskom and UKZN in line with the grid capacity upgrade.

HVDC systems research will focus on:

  • circuit-breaker technology;
  • conversion technology;
  • system configurations;
  • implementation of new components and technologies;
  • condition monitoring;
  • line configurations;
  • clearances;
  • insulation materials for transformers, overhead lines, and cables;
  • communication.