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Changji-Guquan UHV DC Transmission Link in Anhui Province, China
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These images have been chosen for their uniqueness. Subject matter ranges from historic events, to really cool phenomena in science and engineering, to relevant place, to ingenious contraptions, to interesting products (which now has its own dedicated Featured Product category).

Changji-Guquan UHV DC Transmission Link in Anhui Province, China - RF Cafe Cool Pic

Changji-Guquan UHV DC Transmission Link in Anhui Province, China

Photo: Imaginechina / Alamy

When up in a small airplane or helicopter, I have never had any sense of fear of heights, but when at the top edge of a really tall building or at the precipice of a high cliff, the need to control the panic sensation is required. It is not strong enough to prevent me from going there, but I'm definitely not one of those fearless types that will go anywhere with reckless abandon. Even seeing a photo like this one on the IEEE Spectrum website invokes the fight or flight emotion. You need to click on the thumbnail to see the larger version to really get a sense of the height at which the technicians are working.

The story is about China's Changji-Guquan ultrahigh-voltage direct-current transmission link along the Yangtze River, in Anhui province. Arguments abound over whether DC or AC is better overall for electrical distribution, but the main reason for this DC line is to accommodate energy storage at locations throughout the country. As opposed to pumping water back to the top of a dam or raising gigantic weights, huge banks of capacitors and batteries can be used without AC-to-DC / DC-to-AC conversion to store excess production for drawing upon during surge periods or to fill the gap when generation is compromised due to a local failure. Recall that "The Current War" was fought between pro-direct-current Thomas Edison and pro-alternating-current Nikola Tesla. DC has the advantage of lower line losses while AC voltages can be efficiently stepped up or down. Here is a very thorough list of the main advantages and disadvantages of AC and DC distribution systems (look down below the large graphics).

Despite numerous multi-billion-dollar "Infrastructure Packages" created by our self-serving politicians, the Chinese are rocketing ahead of the United States in nearly all areas of technology. Only a very small portion of the U.S. budget is actually spent on building and restoring roads, bridges, airports, docks, railroads, dams, oil and gas pipelines, landfills, basic research, and electrical distribution, while the vast majority goes to bailing out irresponsible state and local governments, government employee pensions, and pet projects of big-dollar donors.

At the same time, China is building a super-modern country whose infrastructure vastly surpasses that of all others. They do have the advantage of having started a few decades ago from a Stone Age existence where not much infrastructure was already in place, so nearly everything is constructed from the newest technologies. That wonderful system is essentially funded by the same people who are told they are funding ours - Americans and other country's citizens who buy most of their products from China.

 

 

Posted April 9, 2021

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