Sweden Vattenfall and ABB have been awarded the 'IEEE Milestone' for the high-voltage DC transmission cable built between the island of Gotland and the mainland in 1954 – the first of its kind in the world for commercial operation.

The Milestone award, which has been called the Nobel Prize for Electricity, acknowledges crucial technological advances and pioneering events in the history of electricity and is presented by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology with 400,000 members.

Previous prizes were awarded for innovations such as the incandescent lamp, the CD player and the Internet.

"We are very proud of this award and are continuing our work of developing the power grid with new smart and sustainable solutions for the energy system of the future," says Annika Viklund, Head of BU Vattenfall Distribution.

Electricity consumption grew quickly in Sweden in the 1950s, but the country’s main reserves of hydro power were found in the north, over 600 miles away from the large consumption areas in the south.

A solution for long distances
Gotland was consequently forced to generate its own electricity at twice the cost of mainland power. A solution was needed to transfer electricity reliably and cost-effectively over long distances.

All that changed with the first commercial HVDC link, i.e. a link for high-voltage DC transmission. It was realised via a 96 km  submarine cable between Västervik on the mainland and Ygne, south of Visby on Gotland. It had a voltage level of 100 kV and a transmission capacity of 20 MW.

An evolving technology
The Gotland link was subsequently upgraded to keep pace with the development of HVDC technology. It currently has a voltage level of 150 kV and a transmission capacity of 320 MW. It satisfies the need for electricity for the 60,000 inhabitants of Gotland and allows the wind power generated on the island to be transferred to the mainland.

A further upgrade of the link was begun in 2016. It will boost capacity and allow more of the wind power generated on Gotland to be integrated in the national grid. The upgrade is planned for completion in 2018.

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