50 years of expertise…and counting

Lev Travin, a leading expert in HVDC power transmission

By Claire Marchand

Back in September and soon after Lev V. Travin accepted the idea of an interview in Tokyo, Japan, during the IEC GM (General Meeting), he spent time trying to reminisce and gather his thoughts on 50 years as an IEC technical expert. What to highlight, what to leave out in a life so rich in IEC experiences to make it fit into a one-hour discussion?

Power lines
Outdoor switchgear at the 1 500 kV converter station of the Ekibastuz Centre HVDC system at the Togliatty test station in 1979

A busy man

Travin has always been a busy man, combining studies and later technical standardization with his career at VEI, the All-Union (now All-Russian) Electrotechnical R&D Institute. He joined VEI in 1956 while still a student at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute. Not an easy feat but Travin was up to the task. So much so that after receiving his BSEE (Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering) and MSEE (Master of Science in Electrical Engineering) degrees in power stations, electrical systems and grids from the Institute, he felt that he needed something else to keep him fully occupied…and began learning English.

From learning English to standardization

Little did Travin know that in taking up English, he was paving the way for his future involvement in international standardization. A few years later, when the USSR NC (National Committee) of the IEC tasked the VEI with finding a young expert to represent the country in IEC TC (Technical Committee) 47: Semiconductor devices, Travin’s technical expertise and knowledge of English designated him as the ideal person for the job.

Three months after his nomination, in September 1964, Travin flew to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, to attend his first TC meeting. For his first trip abroad, he was granted a rare privilege, that of traveling outside of the Soviet Bloc – in normal circumstances, you had to visit several SSRs (Soviet Socialist Republics) before you were even authorized to travel to “capitalist” countries. Philadelphia was the first in a long series of meetings. Travin has vivid memories of these early days and many anecdotes to recount.

The adventurous early days

In 1965, Travin attended his first IEC GM…in Tokyo. There were no direct flights from Moscow to Tokyo at the time so the Soviet delegation had to take a boat from the USSR Far East to Nagasaki and back. They arrived one week early and had to spend an extra week in Japan after the GM to accommodate the ship’s schedule. In all, they spent one full month in Japan. Japanese experts they were acquainted with took them on guided tours. That’s when Travin says he fell in love with Japan, a passion that has in no way diminished after close to 50 years and numerous visits.

In 1966, the Soviet delegation flew to Tel Aviv, Israel, for the 30th IEC GM. At the hotel, all members of the delegation except Travin, whose room was on another floor, were robbed of their money and for two weeks had to stay at a Russian Orthodox monastery. A trip to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Negev, organized by the Russian embassy, somewhat compensated them for the theft of their values.

HVDC specialist

In 1965, the USSR IEC NC nominated Travin as their expert in SC (Subcommittee) 22B: Semiconductor converters. At the time, TC 47 and SC 22B were both developing a Standard on power thyristors. Travin’s task was to prepare a report on the differences in their approaches and potential overlaps, as a result TC 47 ended up producing the Standard.

Power thyristors were used in very powerful converters for HVDC (high-voltage direct current) transmissions. At that time, USSR, a huge country where power had to be transmitted over long distances, was very much ahead in that field. In 1970, after the equipment for HVDC transmission was developed, produced and tested, began the first stage of construction of a power line between Ekibastuz (today in Kazakhstan) and Tambov in the European part of the country. With its 2 414 km, it would have been the longest in the world. In 1991, the project was well advanced when a major event – the collapse of the Soviet Union – put a stop to the undertaking and the equipment was left to rust.

In the 1970-80s, the IEC and CIGRE (International Council on Large Electric Systems) organized several meetings in the USSR, sometimes in the vicinity of HVDC power stations.

Nowadays there remain a few HVDC projects in the Russian Federation but none of the same magnitude. Moreover, power transmission and distribution, united at the time of the USSR, is now mainly in private hands. And the systems are not always compatible.

More responsibilities, major achievements

In the 1970s, Travin also took on more responsibilities, joining SC 22F: Converters for HVDC power transmission (in 1995, the title of SC 22F was changed to Power electronics for electrical transmission and distribution systems). He has been the Secretary of this Subcommittee since 1990.

In addition to TC meetings, Travin also accompanied Soviet and later Russian delegations to Europe, Australia, Japan and the USA. He participated in numerous conferences and symposiums, including the 2009 CIGRE-IEC International Symposium on Standards for Ultra High Voltage Transmission in New Delhi, India.

In 2009, the IEC NC of the Russian Federation nominated Travin as the head of the Russian delegation to the meetings of TC 115: High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission for DC voltages above 100 kV. The same year he became a member of the SMB (Standardization Management Board) SG (Strategic Group) 2: Standardization of Ultra High Voltage Technologies, (disbanded in 2013).

IEC work and recognition

Travin has devoted 50 years of his life to the IEC, as an expert, and for the past 24 years, as the Secretary of SC 22F, where he has made his mark by leading his team to produce high-quality publications in the shortest possible time. Over the years, he has forged close contacts with international organizations such as CIGRE and IEEE and kept abreast of the latest technological developments to ensure that all publications issued by his committee reflected those advances.

In 2011, in recognition of his long-standing exceptional contribution in committee management, the Commission bestowed the Thomas A. Edison Award on Travin. (see article in e-tech December 2011)

 Lev V. Travin

Lev V. Travin has been with VEI, the All-Russian Electrotechnical R&D Institute, since 1956. At present he is Chief of the Institute’s Expert and Analytical Department. He has close to 60 years of experience in research, development and R&D planning of converter equipment for HVDC. He has written more than 30 articles , brochures and books on the subject and has eight patents.

Travin participated in theoretical and experimental studies of schemes and operation modes of HVDC power transmission as well as in the development of high-voltage thyristor valves for Volgograd-Donbass (400 MW/~400kV) HVDC power transmission, Vyborg back-to-back station (1 000 MW) and Ekibastuz-Tambov (6 000 MW/~750 kV) ultra-high voltage DC power transmission.

Summary of Lev Travin’s involvement in IEC

  • Secretary of SC 22F: Power electronics for electrical transmission and distribution systems
  • Member of TC 22/AG 7: Power electronic systems and equipment/Chairman’s Advisory Group
  • Member of TC 33/JWG 22F (Joint Working Group between TC 33 and SC 22F): Thyristor controlled series capacitors
  • Member of TC 115/WG 5: System design of HVDC project
  • 2009-2013: Member of SMB SG 2: Standardization of Ultra High Voltage Technologies
  • 1964-1977: Member of TC 47
  • 1965-1967: Member of SC 22B
Lev Travin Lev Travin at the 2011 IEC Genreal Meeting in Melbourne. Australia, when he received the Thomas A. Edison Award
Back to back hvdc converter HVDC back-to-back converter station in Texas, USA (Photo: ABB)
Power lines Outdoor switchgear at the 1 500 kV converter station of the Ekibastuz Centre HVDC system at the Togliatty test station in 1979