ABB has won an order worth around $260 million from the U.S. utility Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a power marketing agency within the U.S. Department of Energy, to upgrade the existing Celilo HVDC converter station in Oregon. This station is an important part of the electricity link between the Pacific Northwest and southern California commissioned more than 40 years ago in 1970. The order was booked in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The Celilo converter station is located at the north end of the Pacific DC Intertie, also known as Path 65, which has a capacity of 3,100 MW and originates near the Columbia River. This Intertie is 846 mi long and connects to the Sylmar converter station in the south.

The Pacific DC intertie transmits electricity from the Pacific Northwest to as many as three million households in the greater Los Angeles area. During the winter, the north consumes significant quantities of power for heating while the south requires less, but in the summer, demand is reversed with more power needed in the south for cooling. The Pacific Intertie allows power to flow between the Northwest and Southern California, helping to balance supply with demand.

Key components of the station upgrade include valves, controls, transformers as well as switchgear and cooling equipment. In addition to modernizing the converter station, the upgrade will also make it feasible to boost capacity up to 3,800 MW. ABB carried out a similar upgrade of the Sylmar converter station in 2004.

“The converter station upgrade will enhance the reliability of this important HVDC link, thereby reducing the risk of blackouts and helping to secure power supply in the region,” said Brice Koch, head of ABB's Power Systems division.