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WAPA receives prestigious award for Virginia Smith Converter Station

WAPA's Media Line: 720-962-7411
For immediate release: May 21, 2015
Contact: Kara Lamb, 720-962-7056,

​East-west connecting station honored for technology

LAKEWOOD, Colo.—Today, WAPA, IEEE and Siemens    celebrated the IEEE Milestone    commemoration of the Virginia Smith Converter Station. The station, located in Sidney, Nebraska, provides an important interconnection between two of the nations' three electrical grids, literally connecting east to west. Its electrical current conversion technology represents an important technological achievement in the field of electric power. Western owns and operates the converter station.

“This is a high honor,” said WAPA Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel. “We are thrilled to be inducted into the IEEE Milestones family and become part of its proud tradition. The continued success of the Virginia Smith Converter Station is testament to the value of partnership in powering the energy frontier.”

Established in 1983, the IEEE Milestones in Electrical Engineering and Computing Program honors significant technological achievements for the betterment of humanity in one of the areas of the IEEE. These prestigious awards are proposed by IEEE Sections, managed by the IEEE History Center  and funded through the IEEE Foundation   .

"We thank our Milestone site hosts, volunteers and the many donors to the IEEE History Center Fund of the IEEE Foundation who work together to make this exciting program possible. Together, we celebrate technological developments that brought great benefit to humanity,” said IEEE History Center Senior Director Michael N. Geselowitz. “Many achievements remain to be formally recognized, and IEEE encourages its members to propose Milestones at   ."

Today’s event celebrated achievements of the dedicated employees from WAPA and Siemens who worked collaboratively on the design and installation of the landmark converter station, which was energized in 1988.

“Siemens is extremely proud of the high-voltage, direct-current converter technology that has sustained the 28 year-old station since its original construction,” said Vice President of Siemens Transmission Solutions, Brian Gemmell. “This recognition highlights the true accomplishments and innovations of the men and women involved in the original planning and construction of the facility as well as to the dedication and care that WAPA continues to use in the station’s safe and reliable operation.”

The station’s innovative control technologies act like giant shock absorbers between the eastern and western alternating current grids, allowing a reliable flow of energy between the two. Previous attempts to connect the grids without converter stations failed because frequencies on each side do not exactly match. The Virginia Smith station is capable of transferring energy in either an east-west or west-east direction by converting and inverting the AC grids to a common, controllable, high voltage direct current. Creating a reliable interconnection, the conversion process also makes it possible to maintain separation so that in times of disturbances, impacts in one grid do not adversely affect the other.

The IEEE Milestones plaque is permanently displayed in the lobby of WAPA’s Headquarters office at 12155 W. Alameda Parkway in Lakewood, Colorado, where it is publicly accessible to all who wish to view it.


About IEEE Foundation: As the philanthropic arm of IEEE, the IEEE Foundation inspires the generosity of donors so it may enable IEEE programs that enhance technology access, literacy and education, as well as support the IEEE professional community.

The IEEE Foundation fulfills its purpose by soliciting and managing donations, recognizing the generosity of our donors, awarding grants to IEEE grassroots projects of strategic importance, serving as a steward of donations that empower bright minds, recognize innovation and preserve the history of technology. With donor support, the IEEE Foundation strives to be a leader in transforming lives through the power of technology and education.

About Siemens: Siemens Corporation is a U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG, a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality for more than 165 years.  With 343,000 employees in more than 200 countries, Siemens reported worldwide revenue of approximately $98 billion in fiscal 2014. Siemens in the USA reported revenue of $22.2 billion, including $5.2 billion in exports, and employs approximately 46,000 people throughout all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

About Western: Western Area Power Administration annually markets and transmits more than 25,000 gigawatt hours of clean, renewable power from 57​ hydroelectric powerplants owned and operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 15 western and central states. It is part of the Department of Energy.

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