EPRI Evaluates the Scientific Literature on HVDC Health and Environmental Effects

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The growing interest in high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission for grid upgrades and renewable energy integration makes it important to fully investigate the technology’s impact on human health and the environment. Unlike prevalent high-voltage alternating current (HVAC) transmission, HVDC lines produce static (zero frequency) electric and magnetic fields, along with air ions. The line’s magnetic field can affect the magnitude and direction of the earth’s magnetic field close to the transmission line.

EPRI’s review of the scientific literature found that:

  • Research to date has found no significant adverse health impacts of HVDC.
  • Research would be useful to further examine effects of the altered geomagnetic field surrounding HVDC lines on migratory species and soil-dwelling animals.
  • Impacts of air ions on humans and animals depend on topography and wind speed and direction, pointing to the value of studying HVDC lines in regions with diverse climates and atmospheric constituents.
  • Because HVDC is preferred over HVAC for long-distance underwater transmission, research on marine ecosystem impacts could be useful.

As a next step, EPRI is pursuing opportunities to research environmental aspects of HVDC submarine cables, including effects on migratory species.

Photo of Bipole III transmission line construction courtesy of Manitoba Hydro