An interview with professor Mike Barnes

Following in the footsteps of Prof. Mike Barnes, our department of Power Electronics and Studies have picked up the baton and are now providing a newsletter in VSC-HVDC technology.

These monthly reports, which have become fundamental to having an overview of this developing technology over the years, were set up from scratch by the team at the University of Manchester. We interviewed Prof. Mike Barnes to learn a bit more about the history and the impressive development of this newsletter.

What were your main reasons for starting this newsletter?

“I started the Manchester VSC HVDC newsletter nearly ten years ago with Dr Oliver Cwikowski, who was then doing a PhD at the University. At the time VSC HVDC was a much smaller field and there didn’t appear to be a good source charting what was happening on a month-by-month basis. I wanted to update my team and our R&D partners, and the newsletter seemed a good way of doing this.”

How did you manage to do it at the beginning and build it from scratch?

“Originally the Manchester newsletter was just sent to our academic and industrial collaborators. Then it got recommended to other people. In the end we had several hundred people wanting to get it emailed to them, so obviously it fulfilled a need. At the same time VSC HVDC really took off as a topic. When the newsletter started (the start of 2013), about 14 physical VSC HVDC links were running, now there about 50, with another 70 or so in various states of planning. In the third newsletter, in the list of papers published, there was only one paper.  At the moment there are 70-100 papers a month.”

Throughout all the years of the newsletter, what are the major developments you have seen?

“It’s a privilege to work in a field where so many talented engineers and scientists are doing so much cutting-edge work which is critical on the path to achieving Net Zero targets.  The development of multi-level topologies, the move to converter stations which can run offshore and the development of HVDC breakers are all excellent examples of achieved innovation. We’re moving to offshore ‘hubs’ to collect wind energy, and hopefully we’ll find a way to achieve widespread multi-vendor multi-terminal networks in due course. Given the complexity of the VSC HVDC system, in my view, this is one of the most impressive feats of ingenuity that humanity has produced – it’s a real joy to work in this exciting field.”

Why did you stop doing this newsletter after 10 years of amazing work?

“Sadly, it got to the point where the amount of work and my changing role at Manchester meant I couldn’t continue the Manchester newsletter, so sadly I had to close it. This is even with the help of team members like Dr Theo Heath and Jack Andrews over the years. I thus am really delighted and applaud that Sebastien Dennetière and the team at RTE international have started their new newsletter to fill this important need for the wider HVDC community.”

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