Milestone-Proposal:Eel River Back-to-Back High Voltage Direct Current Converter Station, 1972

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Docket #:2009-07

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old?

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy.

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity?

Was it of at least regional importance?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)?

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony?

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated?

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

Canadian General Electric and NB Power commissioned Eel River HVDC in 1972*.

Title of the proposed milestone:

Eel River Back-to-Back High Voltage Direct Current Converter Station, 1972

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Region 7, New Brunswick Section.

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: New Brunswick Section
Senior Officer Name: Gerhard Dueck

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: New Brunswick Section
Senior Officer Name: Marianne Limpert

Unit: New Brunswick Section
Senior Officer Name: Heather MacLean

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: New Brunswick Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Gerhard Dueck

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Elmer Bourque
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Eel River is located in Northern New Brunswick, Canada

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. If successful in receiving this acknowledgment, NB Power would organize a celebration event in conjunction with Engineering Week, which is held annually in February. We would propose an event be held at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, along with representatives from the IEEE, and IEEE NB Section. In addition, we would invite key stakeholders and the media to attend. After the plaque is received, it would be displayed in the main lobby of our Dalhousie Generating Station, where it would be visible to employees and visitors for viewing.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Original buildings are in existence, inside a High Voltage Transmission Terminal yard. More exposure to the plaque would be possible at the nearby Dalhousie Generating Station. The Eel River HVDC facility is a secured operational facility unavailable to the public. Dalhousie Generating Station, which is located nearby and has an office area and a large vestibule, accessible to the public.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

NB Power Transmission Corporation

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

Eel River back-to-back High Voltage Direct Current converter station, the first in the world to be completely solid state. The station is a 320Mega Watt facility, comprised of two poles of 80kVolt 2000-Ampere Direct Current. Both the New Brunswick and Hydro Quebec sides of the station operate at 230kVolt 3 phase Alternating Current. Technologically, new high current silicon solid state thyristors were coming into use and Canadian General Electric and NB Power entered an agreement to enable a demonstration plant to prove the technology. Today, a third of a century later, the plant is still in service and NB Power is considering upgrades. Politically or socially, Hydro Quebec had just built some massive hydroelectric power stations at Churchill Falls, Manicouagan and LaGrande. A block of energy would be available for a number of years. NB Power capitalized on this situation. It resulted in NB Power customers having lower electricity rates for many years. Hydro Quebec has since become a major exporter of energy and has installed a number of HVDC stations. However, Eel River was the first HVDC interconnection between Hydro Quebec and a neighbouring utility. On a reliability basis, New Brunswick with its 2000 MW power system could not be attached directly to the Hydro Quebec system because we were already tied to the North American Eastern Interconnection of some 200,000MW. Minor disturbances would have disrupted the New Brunswick system, thus affecting NB Power customers. HVDC allowed the power to be imported

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

The major technical obstacle was to obtain acceptable transient performance during disturbances. Having enough voltage support was also the challenge, and required three rotary synchronous converters and nearby 112 MVA Dalhousie Plant to maintain voltage and give the electronic station some inertia. Control systems included a governing function and a stabilizing function, both based on the judiciously weighted frequency difference of both systems.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

In previous HVDC projects, be it back to back or DC Transmission lines, the converters and inverters were constructed with vacuum tube technology known as mercury arc valves. These were prone to re-strikes, which deteriorated the transient performance of the facilities. The Nelson River project (recent milestone for 900 km HVDC transmission system) retrofitted thyristors to half of their bridges, which enabled the technology to be proven and pave the road for the Eel River Project shortly after. A converter has the Alternating Current connection at its input and the Direct current at its output. An inverter is the opposite. A converter / inverter constitutes a DC Link. If the distance is long, we call it a DC Transmission Line. If the distance is short like at Eel River (some 30' of 2000 Ampere bus), then it is a back-to-back HVDC station.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.