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Power generation is currently experiencing the greatest upheaval of its history. Germany is turning its back on atomic power and intends by 2050 to derive around 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Fluctuating amounts of power must sometimes be transmitted to consumers hundreds of miles away. The new energy sources are not only distributed over large geographic areas but also fluctuate a great deal over time. Our grids, on the other hand, were not originally designed for this mix of sources. Distributed power generation poses new challenges for operators of high-voltage grids that call for technologies such as high-voltage direct-current transmission (HVDC). HVDC's special control and protection functions make it particularly important. Not only does it transmit power over long distances with minimal losses via a "power highway" but it also supports the voltage of the AC grids to which it is connected. With the aid of power electronics, HVDC makes it possible to selectively control the power flow, stabilize the voltage, and smooth out frequency fluctuations. In a joint venture, transmission system operators Amprion and TransnetBW are implementing the ULTRANET direct-current project, the first of three planned links between northern and southern Germany.
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