The Haramain high-speed railroad (HHR) in Saudi Arabia is an important new transport artery connecting the Muslim holy cities of Medina and Mecca via King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh, Jeddah, where it connects to the national rail-network, and King Abdulaziz International Airport. Passengers will travel at speeds of up to 320 km per hour (200 mph) along almost 450 kilometers (km) of custom made track, cutting travel time between Jeddah and Mecca to less than half an hour.
For this project, ABB will design, supply, install and commission two identical static var compensators (SVCs) so that the power grid remains stable when the HHR service is in operation. The SVCs will play an important role across the region to balance of asymmetrical loads associated with the railway’s operation. A particular characteristic of the Saudi Arabian grid is that it has a large number of induction motor air conditioner loads. Such loads can easily cause voltage dips and depressions in the grid, unless properly addressed.
The SVCs, which are each rated at -300/+600 Mvar, ie, 300 Mvar (inductive) to 600 Mvar (capacitive), will be installed at either end of the track at the 380 kilovolt (kV) substations to compensate for these fluctuations. They are designed to accommodate the very demanding environmental conditions of Saudi Arabia, with dust, strong solar radiation impact, 80-100% relative humidity, and ambient temperatures reaching 55 degrees Celsius.
SVCs, also known as thyristor controlled shunt compensators, are part of ABB’s family of FACTS (flexible AC transmission system) technologies, which help enhance the capacity and flexibility of power transmission and also contribute to the development of smarter grids. FACTS technologies allow more power to reach consumers with minimal environmental impact, lower investment costs and shorter implementation times compared to the alternative of building new transmission lines and/or power plants. They also help address voltage and frequency stability issues and enable the transmission system to run more efficiently.
ABB is a pioneer as well as global leader in the growing field of FACTS, and has delivered more than 800 such installations across the world. Last year, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) publication Spectrum named FACTS among its top 11 technologies of the decade.