Why Power Electronics in Christchurch?

So I can hear you asking why should we even consider you and why New Zealand?

What has New Zealand got that makes it a serious power electronics place?

This is a good question and one we get asked a lot.

New Zealand and the HVDC Link

In 1965 in order to leverage the South Island Hydro generation to supply the growing North Island population an HVDC link was built between the South Island and the North Island.  (Those are truly the official names).  This link was from ASEA in Sweden. ASEA became the A in ABB when they merged with Brown Boveri  (the BB) from Switzerland.  The submarine cable across the Cook Strait was from BICC in the UK.

The link was at the time the largest in the world at 600MW.  The voltage was ±250kV DC with 570km of overhead line and 40km of subsea cable.  The link was built from Benmore in the South Island to Haywards near Wellington in the North Island.  There were some challenges in connecting to the North Island as there is not so much generation near to Haywards.

Aluminium smelter in 1971

In 1971 an aluminium smelter was built at Bluff.  This rectiformer load is up to 610MW.  This was a large second power converter load on the South Island grid and the interaction between the HVDC converter and the smelter converter created some puzzling and strange effects in the AC transmission network.  A perplexing fifth harmonic resonance was one of them.

Why Christchurch?

In 1975 the University of Canterbury appointed Jos Arrillaga to the Chair of Power Systems at the Electrical Engineering Department.  Jos had been Head of the power group at UMIST in Manchester where the Masters and PhD program was educating the power engineers for the European power vendors and utilities.

Professor Jos Arrillaga

Jos Arrillaga was originally from Basque in Spain.  He was head of the Power Group at UMIST having previously studied at UMIST and then returned to teach there.

Jos came to Christchurch New Zealand in 1975.  Here at the University of Canterbury he established the pre-eminent power electronics research group in the world.  His research group contributed to power electronic converter analysis, design and converter interaction with the grid.  He and his group trained a significant number of engineers from all over the world.  These engineers have gone on to be CEOs, technical specialists, professors, power systems engineers and power electronics designers in the power industry all over the world.

In 1997 the IEEE awarded Jos the Uno Lamm Medal for services to HVDC.

Jos Arrillaga died in 2009.

Jos Arrillaga’s attention to detail, emphasis on understanding, aspiration to and achievement of excellence was an inspiration.

UC group shot

“If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” Prof. Jos Arrillaga (front) Prof,Richard Duke (right), Dr. Simon Round(left) and Dr. Hamish Laird(back) all working at the same time at University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

So what does any of this have to do with ELMG?

We all have a history that makes us who we are.

Hamish Laird’s University of Canterbury PhD Lineage

In the picture at the front Prof. Jos Arrillaga
IEEE Uno Lamm Medal winner, Fellow Royal Society of NZ , Fellow of IPENZ,  Fellow Academy  of Sciences, Fellow of IEE (now IET), Fellow of IEEE.  Richard Duke’s PhD supervisor.

On the right Prof. Richard Duke
Project engineer NZ South Island Hydro. Built the South Island Hydro system.   Hamish Laird’s Masters  supervisor.  Simon Round’s PhD supervisor

On the left Dr. Simon Round
At present controller platform manager at ABB Turgi, Switzerland.  Hamish Laird’s PhD supervisor.

At the back Dr. Hamish Laird

ELMG Founder

“It is great fortune to have been in and around this group.  It has been a great honour to have known and worked with these men.“

The power  electronics design and development eco system in Christchurch

The eco system of training institutions, companies and engineers in Christchurch New Zealand has strong foundations and strong tradition of connection around the world.  The Engineering school at the University of Canterbury produces new talent for the companies while long established companies and technology provide a backbone for both growth and innovation.

ELMG in Christchurch

ELMG provides high value high quality services to Christchurch, New Zealand, Australian, Californian, German, Swiss and USA based companies.