High-Voltage DC Circuit Breakers

HVDC transmission systems are being built rapidly to integrate the renewable generation resources through point to point, multiterminal and HVDC grids due to the advantages inherently offered by the VSC technology. In addition, the DC technology is progressing to be applied in distribution systems which is being implemented either by converting existing ac distribution system to dc system or new dc distribution system. Both HVDC development in transmission and distribution networks call for the use of HVDC breakers to provide the fast interruption of the dc fault to ensure stable and reliable operations of the systems.

The technologies of HVDC breaker are maturing and various types of DC breakers, including mechanical, solid-state or hybrid type have been researched, designed, and put in-service. The major issue that researcher and engineers are facing is that there have not been any international standards on the high voltage DC breakers. The ratings and testing requirements are primarily chosen and defined based on the need for individual research and application.

Efforts are being made by IEEE switchgear committee to provide the latest development in the HVDC breakers as well as the establishment of a WG so that a standard on HVDC breakers can be developed to best suit the customers in North America. It will also help to adopt and/or harmonize with IEC in the near future.

Active Committees/Task Forces of Interest
  • To learn more & get involved, please check out the IEEE PES Switchgear Committee’s HVCB Subcommittee website here.
  • HVDC CB working groups holds WG meetings in conjunction with IEEE Switchgear Committee meeting twice a year. The next meeting is scheduled at IEEE SG fall 2021 meeting. If you are interested in the WG activities and standard development, you are welcome to join the WG. More information about future meetings can be found at https://www.ewh.ieee.org/soc/pes/switchgear/meetings/meetings.html

Electrification Magazine – Volume 1: Issue 1: Sparking Innovation
DC circuit breakers offer protection to dc systems. In HVdc systems, two types of breakers are available. The first type, electromechanical circuit breakers,  are available up to 500 kV and 5 kA; the second type, solid state circuit breakers based on gate-commutated thyristor (IGCT) or insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) s, have typical ratings of 4 kV and 2 kA.

Solid state dc breakers are also used in low voltage DC systems, e.g., shipboard power systems. In the inaugural issue of IEEE Electrification Magazine (2013, vol. 1, no. 1), “Shipboard Solid-State Protection: Overview and Applications” by Rich Schmerda; Rob Cuzner; Rodney Clark; Dan Nowak; Steve Bunzel, presents an overview of the present art of low-voltage (LV) dc power distribution system protection using solid-state dc circuit breakers. The ratings of the circuit breakers are 1,000 V, 1,000 A for IGCT-based breakers and 1,000 V, 1,800A for IGBT-based breakers.

Electrification Magazine – Volume 4: Issue 2: Does dc Distribution Make Sense?
In the June 2016 issue with a theme “Does DC Distribution Make Sense”, there are two articles in the June 2016 issue are relevant to DC circuit breakers.

  1. DC Microgrid Protection: Using the Coupled-Inductor Solid-State Circuit Breaker by Atif Maqsood and Keith Corzine
  2. Ultrafast Solid-State Circuit Breakers: Protecting Converter-Based ac and dc Microgrids Against Short Circuit Faults [Technology Leaders] by Z. John Shen

Both articles address the technologies of how to make circuit breakers faster for LVdc systems at 400 V.



Numerous articles from IEEE Power and Energy Magazine and Electrification magazine explore the topic of grid resilience in greater detail. These articles include:

Other Available Material
Switching in DC Systems
TT May 2021 1 DC switching tutorial at IEEE switchgear committee 2018 spring meeting: April 2018 Speakers: Rene Smeets and Joanne Hu This tutorial provides an overview of HVDC system development, topologies, associated switching functionality, various faults in HVDC system, requirements of the Fault current interruption, the development of HVDC breakers, practical installations, and experience of testing HVDC Circuit breakers. View Now » [PDF 7.7MB]
Circuit Breakers for High Voltage DC Networks
TT May 2021 2 IEEE-PES Webinar: November 2019 Speaker: Dragan Jovcic DC Circuit Breakers will be key components in future DC transmission networks. There are primarily two families of DC CB which have been brought to market: mechanical DC CB and hybrid DC CB. The webinar will discuss technical properties of each of these operational DC CBs. View Now »
Related Development by other international organizations: IEC/CIGRE

June 2020