Inside the Planned 'Super Grid' to Connect China and Korea

South Korea and China have plans to connect their electricity grids via a transmission network that runs on the ocean bed. The aim is to create an electricity network that spans across Asia. The grid will be using the most up to date high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology to make it as efficient as possible.

The ‘super grid’ will be a transmission network made of many sub systems which make use of the HVDC power transmission. By doing this, the exiting systems can be used in a more efficient manner whilst also allowing electricity flows in many directions and using many different energy sources connected to the grid.

Super grids are now being used over the traditional electricity networks as they are more future proofed and provide a robust and efficient way to distribute electricity. These extra benefits in turn will reduce the cost of electricity paid by the customer. Super grids are slowly being introduced into Europe where it is allowing markets to be efficiently connected to one another such as wind power in one location and hydro in another, whilst then retiring coal plants but still producing enough electricity.

The super grid in Asia is being introduced due to the retirement of the nuclear power plants in the area, and therefore to connect the upcoming renewable plants and LNG (liquified natural gas) power plants together. This will make renewable energy a key part of the electricity supply chain in these regions. For example, the excess solar power that gets generated in Mongolia can be distributed to countries such as Japan, Russia, Korea or China through the proposed super grid ring.

The countries that will be connected to the super grid currently all have varying electricity prices with Japan having the most expensive. The new technology will ensure there is a buffer in place which will help reduce electricity shortfalls.

The HVDC technology that is going to be used in the grid is advantageous as it allows for regions to be connected that are not synchronised and the cables can also connect land masses which are separated by the sea. The DC hybrids can also work with existing AC networks, this allows for a ‘self-healing’ aspect as if there is a loss of an AC line due to some sort of fault the HVDC system can sense this happening and rectify the issue to make sure there is no loss of frequency felt by anyone.

Using a super grid also helps reducing harmful greenhouse gases being emitted. As it will encourage the use of renewable sources to be used in favour of fossil fuel-based systems as they are now all able to be connected up to the same grid. The HVDC cables can also be hidden underground, meaning that land doesn’t have to be cleared (e.g. forests) to make infrastructure to have the cables running above the land.

The limitations for this technology in Asia come from a more political and national security point of view. The countries may not be willing to share their network data with one another in the aid to build this super grid for national security reasons. There also might be legislation in place which restricts how the electricity can be distributed through the nations in a fair way. Grid operators will also have to be convinced that this super grid is a step in the right direction as more often than not grid operators can be very reluctant to change however this problem can be overcome by discussing and collaborating with the operators.

All in all, the Asian super grid is a doable and plausible idea to bring the nations together through their electricity. However it will depend on outside factors as to whether it goes ahead and how successful it will be.

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