Glimpse behind the scenes at a converter station under construction

The converter station at Lixhe was due to open its doors to the public on 16 and 17 May 2020 as part of Open Site Day.

That event could not go ahead because of the coronavirus crisis, but you can still find out more about this vital component of the interconnector between Belgium and Germany!

The converter station transforms alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC), and vice versa depending on the direction of electricity flow.

The electricity follows a set route through the station:

  • It arrives from the Lixhe 400-kV high-voltage substation, which is a node in Belgium's AC grid.
  • Once inside the converter station, the electricity flow arrives first at the gas-insulated switchgear (GIS). This is a metal-encapsulated apparatus comprising circuit-breakers and measuring equipment. Its main function is to disconnect the converter station from the Lixhe high-voltage substation, either for maintenance or in the event of a fault.
  • From there, the flow proceeds to the power transformers, which provide the converter with a constant AC voltage.
  • Next, the electricity comes to the main room in the station: the converter. This converts the alternating current into direct current, which allows the flows to be managed more efficiently on an interconnector between two countries.
  • There is also a water cooling system to remove the heat generated by the AC/DC conversion inside the converter.
  • Finally, the direct current is ready to be injected into the underground cable connection running from Lixhe to the German converter station – a distance of 90 km (49 km of it in Belgium).
  • Once there, the direct current is converted into alternating current so that it can be injected into the German domestic grid.