CIGRE UK NGN University of Birmingham Hub: HVDC & FACTS Lecture Report

  • 0
  • 11th April 2024
UoB Hub 040324


The CIGRE UK NGN UoB Hub co-hosted a Distinguished Industry Lecture at the University of Birmingham from 2 pm to 5 pm on 4th March 2024. During the lecture, Prof. Xiao-Ping Zhang, the Advisor to the CIGRE UK NGN UoB Hub, invited Carl Barker, a senior expert from GE Vernova, to give a presentation on HVDC & FACTS. This event was sponsored the School of Engineering, University of Birmingham, and co-hosted by IEEE Student Branch at the University of Birmingham. In total more than 20 attendees showed up in the lecture, including MSc students, PhD students and academic staff.


To start the event, Prof. Xiao-Ping Zhang welcomed everyone and briefly introduced the programme and agenda of this event. Dr Nan Chen, the Chair of the CIGRE UK NGN UoB Hub (the local co-organiser of this event), gave a brief introduction of CIGRE UK NGN UoB Hub and CIGRE UK NGN.

The CIGRE UK NGN UoB Hub aims to provide a communication platform for local students including undergraduate students, Mater students, PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, early career researchers and young academics to discuss hot topics related to power system with each other, especially in the areas of the 16 Study Committees of CIGRE. Under the supervision and support of Prof. Xiao-Ping Zhang, the advisor to the CIGRE UK NGN UoB Hub, theHub can provide local students and researchers with opportunities of communicating with and learning from senior CIGRE members, together with the CIGRE UK Ambassador programme. The CIGRE UK NGN UoB Hub also aims to contribute to the development of CIGRE including reputation increase and membership growth.

After introducing all organisers, Prof. Zhang introduced the speaker, Mr Carl Barker, to the audience. Carl is a Chartered Engineer in the UK, a member of the IET (UK), a Senior Member of the IEEE, a distinguished Member of CIGRE. Carl holds a B.Eng from Staffordshire Polytechnic and a M.Sc. from Bath University in the UK. He joined GE Vernova’s Grid Solutions in Stafford, UK in 1989, initially working on the design and development of individual HVDC and SVC projects then becoming System Design Manager, responsible for all technical aspects of HVDC projects. Carl is, at present, a Consulting Engineer within the business providing technical direction and guidance across several disciplines.

Carl’s presentation started with the fundamental knowledge of reactive power generation and demand. He introduced the overview and comparisons of HVDC and HVAC, followed by the needs of reactive power on the transmission line. Then the characteristics of FACTS devices were presented and analysed in detail such as MSCDN, TCR, Fixed Series Capacitors, TSC, STATCOM, etc.


To further demonstrate the comparisons between HVDC and HVAC, Carl showed a piece of the HVDC transmission line cables to enable all students to visualise this part in practical engineering. In the introduction of the LCC-HVDC and VSC-HVDC, Carl again brought a thyristor show to students, to further demonstrate the challenges that the installation process faces, such as several tons of pressure will be required on each thyristor when stacking hundreds of them together to form a thyristor valve. A real IGBT was also presented to the audience to show explicitly what the practical IGBT looks like.

Carl’s comprehensive introduction to HVDC & FACTS and his insightful comments on students’ questions have had a deep impression on all the audience. Some students commented in the post-event feedback survey “The professor’s explanation of the theory of HVDC was very profitable for me”, “I’m very likely to apply the knowledge gained from this lecture in your academic or professional pursuits”, which demonstrates that this distinguished lecture is a big success.

After a 10-min Q&A session, Prof. Xiao-Ping Zhang announced the closing remarks, followed by a networking chat.


Again, we appreciate the Speaker, Mr Carl Barker’s wonderful presentation and thought-provoking insights in HVDC & FACTS, which have shared invaluable knowledge with all the audience. We also thank the CIGRE UK NGN UoB Hub advisor, Prof. Xiao-Ping Zhang’s consistent support in coordinating and organising such wonderful Distinguished Industry Lectures. Last but not least, our appreciation goes to CIGRE UK and CIGRE UK NGN for providing such a valuable platform, the School of Engineering of University of Birmingham for providing the venue, all local co-organisers for making this lecture smoother, and all the audience for their attendance.

Author:  Dr Nan Chen

Secretary & Treasurer, CIGRE UK NGN


Academic Staff, School of Engineering, University of Birmingham