American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC) (NASDAQ: AMSC) and Consolidated Edison, Inc. (Con Ed) (NYSE: ED) have teamed with the Department of Homeland Security on a project to protect New York's power grid with surge suppressing superconductor cable technology.
Work has started on what is expected to be a $39.3 million project for Con Ed to develop and deploy new high temperature superconductor (HTS) power grid technology in Con Ed’s network in New York City. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is expected to invest up to $25 million in the development of this technology to enable “Secure Super Grids” in the United States. Secure Super Grids utilize customized HTS wires, HTS power cables and ancillary controls to deliver more power through the grid while also being able to suppress power surges that can disrupt service.
Concurrently AMSC introduced a new surge-suppressing, high-capacity superconductor power grid technology – a system-level solution that increases the capacity of power grids while also being able to rapidly suppress power surges. This technology is expected to significantly enhance the capacity, security and efficiency of electric power infrastructures in urban and metropolitan areas around the world, enabling “Secure Super Grids.”
Many companies around the world including AMSC have been working to develop stand-alone superconductor fault current limiters that are capable of suppressing power surges – or “fault currents” – to prevent damage to expensive electrical equipment in today’s power grids. AMSC’s Secure Super Grids technology is the first to combine the benefits of high capacity HTS cables and fault current limiters in one system, providing compelling space and cost advantages, particularly for urban and metropolitan areas. AMSC expects the global market for this technology and stand-alone fault current limiters will exceed a billion dollars annually.
“Project Hydra” as the Con Ed Secure Super Grids project has been code named by DHS, in honor of the multiheaded mythical Greek monster, utilize multiple paths for electricity flow in city power grids to ensure system reliability when individual circuits are disrupted due to severe weather, traffic accidents or willful destruction. In addition, they utilize the special properties of superconductors to not only relieve grid congestion, but also instantly suppress power surges that often damage utility equipment and disrupt customer service. The deployment of a commercial high-capacity, surge-suppressing HTS cable system in New York City is projected for completion in three years, concurrent with Con Ed’s “System of the Future” grid enhancement plans. The project will occur in two phases.
The project’s first phase, which is now underway, focuses on the development and operation of a prototype system. Testing of the first Secure Super Grid system is targeted for completion by the end of 2008.
The second phase of the project will focus on the deployment of the first Secure Super Grid system in Con Edison’s power grid in New York City at an undisclosed location. AMSC will produce the HTS wire, known as 344 superconductors, previous post, for the project and will contract with Southwire Company to perform the detailed cable and termination design as well as the manufacture of the superconductor cable. Commissioning of the 13 kilovolt (kV) HTS cable system is expected in early 2010, meeting Con Ed’s construction schedule.
AMSC signed a letter contract worth $1.7 million with DHS on May 18, to enable work on the project to begin. Of the $1.7 million, DHS will fund approximately $1.1 million. AMSC and Con Ed signed a separate agreement whereby Con Ed will be a subcontractor to AMSC. Final contract terms and conditions are expected to be completed within 90 days. The total project cost is estimated to be $39.3 million of which DHS would fund up to $25 million.
Power cables made with HTS wire inside can conduct up to 10 times the amount of power of today’s conventional cables of the same size, which are made with copper wire inside. By replacing copper cables with high-capacity HTS cables in cities using existing underground tunnels and ductwork, utilities can avoid digging up city streets while also relieving grid congestion and increasing the reliability and security of power networks. AMSC’s proprietary technology goes a step further by integrating customized HTS wires known as 344 superconductors with ancillary control systems to allow the power grid to automatically and instantaneously suppress power surges that occur in city power delivery networks due to short circuits.
AMSC announced that it has chosen Southwire Company to carry out the detailed design work related to HTS cable and termination construction, as well as the manufacture of the world’s first HTS power cable that will be used in a Secure Super Grid system. This cable will utilize Southwire’s proprietary HTS Triax™ cable design and AMSC’s proprietary 344 superconductors.
“The Southwire HTS Triax cable system that we installed in a substation near Columbus, Ohio in August 2006 has been working flawlessly,” said Stu Thorn, CEO of Southwire. “The combination of Southwire’s cost-effective HTS Triax cable with AMSC’s Secure Super Grid technology opens tremendous additional opportunities for HTS cables around the world. We look forward to prototype testing and manufacturing the first HTS cable to be utilized in a Secure Super Grid and bringing this new product to market.”
Much progress has been made over the past decade in developing and demonstrating HTS cable technology thanks in large part to cost sharing by the Department of Energy in several HTS cable projects in the U.S. The first HTS cable system operated in North America was energized in 2000 in Carrollton, GA and served the industrial load for Southwire Company’s manufacturing complex for seven years. Today, distribution-voltage HTS cables are serving customers in Columbus, Ohio and Albany, NY. Later this year, a third U.S. HTS cable, operating at transmission voltage will be energized in Long Island Power Authority’s grid. Seven additional HTS cable projects are underway in China, Japan, Korea and Mexico. AMSC’s HTS wire is being utilized in 70% of the world’s current HTS cable projects.
Animations can be found on the AMCS's website that demonstrate how Secure Super Grid systems can protect the electrical grid.