Engineering: D.C. on the Wires

Housed in a compact building near Boulogne, France, a row of 10-ft.-high steel cylinders feeds high-voltage electricity into cables that cross under the English Channel to link the power networks of two nations. The same sort of tubes will soon be at work in New Zealand and Japan, and the U.S. Department of the Interior hopes to hook them to a pair of 750,000-volt lines more than 800 miles long that will carry surplus hydroelectric power from the Pacific Northwest to consumers in California and Arizona.

For all their size, the power-pushing cylinders are first cousins of the fragile vacuum...

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