Alternative University

High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC)

Page 5:  Converter Stations

Valve Hall

A thyristor can only handle part of the total voltage of rectification and inversion. Thyristors must be connected in series in modules to handle more voltage.

Figure 1: Each thyristor in a bridge (yellow) is multiple thyristors in series (light blue). [Alberta Energy]

Figure 2: A module containing thyristors in series for the Nelson River Bipole. Thyristors are the white disks at the back of the module (with radius in vertical plane). Transparent plastic tubes carry cooling water through the heat sinks. Capacitors in the module assist with commutation and protect against transient voltages. [Wtshymanski]

Figure 3: Newer generation module containing more thyristors. Aluminum framing holds all components, and serves as a corona shield. [Huang/Uder]

Thyristor modules are housed in air insulated racks suspended inside a building that is called a valve hall:

Figure 4: Thyristor modules, 500 kV. [Siemens 2011]

Figure 5: Thyristor modules in a valve hall for a 500 kV HVDC pole. In this example, six suspended module towers (three pairs) implement a 12-pulse bridge. Each pair of suspended towers implements a quadruple valve (column of the bridge valves). The high voltage end is at the bottom and includes separate corona shields. [Huang/Uder]

Figure 6: Quadruple valve diagram.

Thyristor module towers suspended from valve hall ceilings provide air insulation underneath the suspended tower, and better seismic event survivability.

Figure 7: Simulated dynamic earthquake behaviour. [Stomberg, etal.]

Seismic protection has been taken more seriously after an earthquake damaged the PDCI southern converter station requiring downtime and repairs.


AC transformers provide electricity to the thyristor modules. The transformers are designed for HVDC stations, providing galvanic separation of the AC and DC systems, and large range of voltage regulation.

Historically, transformers were separate from the valve hall of a station, with conductors connected from transformer bushings to through-the-wall bushings. Newer transformers are attached to the valve hall, with transformer bushings directly entering the building.

Figure 8: Line drawing of a valve hall showing one of the transformers. The transformer (left) is positioned outside, with bushings entering valve hall wall to supply AC power to suspended thyristor valves.

Transfomers are on the AC side of the thyristor modules. Thyristors convert electricity from AC to DC, and can quickly adjust the voltage by adjusting firing angles. However, voltage adjustment should be done with the AC transformers when possible.

As voltages reach new highs, a three-phase AC transformer becomes too large to transport from a manufacturing facility to the converter station. New transformers are developed for single phase operartion, instead of three phase, requiring multiple smaller transformers to replace a larger transformer. At such high voltages, the relatively smaller transformers are still quite large.

Figure 9: Valve hall transformers. [Westerweller/Price]

Using more transformers, that are each smaller, facilitates replacement of transformers later, allowing storage of spare transformers in the station yard for possible future replacement needs.

Transformers have high voltage bushings, usually a vertical bushing for AC input (see photo above), and diagonal bushings to supply AC electricity into the valve hall (next photo).

Figure 10: Valve hall at Three Gorges dam, China. Large transformer bushings (lower right) supply AC phase electricity to suspended valve towers (left). Transformers are behind the wall on right. [Bahrman]

Figure 11: Valve hall under construction in Porto Velho, Brazil. Transformers will be installed against the valve hall wall, and high voltage bushings will be attached to the portion of each transformer that is within the valve hall. Valve halls are shielded and grounded.

A high voltage bushing is an insulated conductor terminal that prevents arcing (“flashover”). For transformers, the bushings insulate the conductor from the transformer exterior (e.g., prevents arcing from the high voltage conductor to the outside of the transformer). The transformer bushings that supply AC to the valve hall also insulate the AC conductors from the wall of the valve hall (to prevent arcing from the conductors to the valve hall wall that the bushings penetrate).

Transformers are on the AC side of thyristor valves. Thyristor firing angles can be adjusted to change voltage, although most voltage adjustment should be done by the AC transformers (tap changing). Multiple wires and hollow tubes are used as high voltage AC conductors to maximize surface area since AC skin effect does not use the geometric interior of conductors for current flow.

DC Filtering

The DC line coming out of the valve hall is smoothed and protected from short circuit surges on the DC line with smoothing reactors in series. Reactors were traditionally oil filled and looked like transformers. Smoothing reactors may now be air core (dry-type).

Figure 12: Air core smoothing reactor. High voltage wall bushing delivers DC electricity from the valve hall (right). [Westerweller/Price]

Figure 13: Pair of air core smoothing reactors in series. [SARI]

Additional filters are used in the DC switch yard to further smooth the DC current on overhead lines, preventing interference on telephone lines, etc.

Figure 14: Towers of capacitors for line filtering, in DC yard of Henday Converter Station, Canada. [Manitoba Hydro]

Line filtering uses capacitors, resistors, and reactors (air core inductors).


 1.  Alberta Energy, “Assessment and Analysis of the State-Of-the-Art Electric Transmission Systems with Specific Focus on High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC), Underground or Other New or Developing Technologies”, 2009.

(2.5 MB)

 2.  Hartmut Huang, Markus Uder, “Application of High Power Thyristors in HVDC and FACTS Systems”, 2008.

(1.6 MB)

 3.  Henrik Stomberg, Bernt Abrahamsson, Olaf Saksvik, “Modern HVDC Thyristor Valves”, 1997.

(117 K)

 4.  Th. Westerweller, J. J. Price, “Basslink HVDC Interconnector - System Design Considerations”, 2006.

(317 K)

 5.  M. Bahrman, “HVDC Development Topics”, 2007.

(1.7 MB)

 6.  “Smoothing Reactor and AC/DC Filter”, SARI 2011.

(355 K)

 7.  “Bipole III Project Description”, Manitoba Hydro, 2011. pdf (61 MB)

< Previous: Conversion    
    Next: Station Layouts >
High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC)
Page 1 : 
Page 2 : 
Page 3 : 
Page 3 : 
Page 5 : 
Page 6 : 
Page 7 : 
Page 8 : 
Page 9 : 
Stations (this page)
Station Layouts
Higher Voltage
Overhead Lines
Pacific DC Intertie

Return to Architecture, Engineering & Construction

Return to Alternative University