US companies develop superconductor-based solution for power grid reliability

Jul 27, 2000 02:00 AM

American Superconductor and Wisconsin Public Service announced the successful operation of the world's first commercial superconductor-based solution for power grid reliability.
The solution consists of multiple, Distributed Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (D-SMES) units deployed at electrical substations in WPS' 200-mile Northern Transmission Loop. This D-SMES system will increase power reliability and capacity throughout the Northern Loop.
"The nation's power grid is highly stressed, which has led to brownouts and rolling blackouts with increasing frequency in recent years," said Greg Yurek, CEO of American Superconductor. "Our new D-SMES product line provides the quickest, lowest cost and most effective solution for power reliability and capacity needs."

Distributed SMES systems are virtual generators - ready to instantaneously inject large quantities of power into the grid when needed. D-SMES is a distributed resource, and because the individual SMES units are easily moved, they can be re-deployed as needed to meet the changing requirements of the grid.
"The American Superconductor D-SMES system provides us with a technically and economically superior solution for improving the voltage stability of the Northern Loop," said Larry Weyers, CEO of Wisconsin Public Service. "This system will allow us to provide improved reliability to our customers immediately and create a better base for load growth and new transmission facilities in the future."
American Superconductor has deployed similar, power quality SMES systems over the past several years at industrial facilities and data centres to ensure high quality of electric power for critical applications. This D-SMES installation, however, is the world's first commercial application of superconductor technology as an integral, ongoing part of an electric power grid. This new solution is applicable to large-scale power grids around the world.
American Superconductor's exclusive channel to the US utility market for D-SMES is GE Industrial Systems, a business of General Electric Company. The D-SMES product line for US utilities is co-branded by GE and American Superconductor.

Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage or SMES, is American Superconductor's patented means of storing large quantities of electricity in a super-conducting electromagnetic coil until needed as an electric power supplement. Combined with proprietary power electronic devices known as inverters, the SMES storage unit becomes an active device for instantaneously solving power reliability and quality problems at the transmission grid level or at individual industrial or data centre sites.
Severe weather, traffic accidents and unforeseen equipment failures can lead to momentary sags in the voltage on power lines. In the United States, over 80 % of all electric power disturbances are voltage sags that last less than one second. According to industry data, these momentary voltage sags cost manufacturers and digital power users tens of billions of dollars annually in damaged equipment and lost productivity.
SMES systems have been in use for several years at industrial sites in the US, South Africa and Europe to provide premium-quality power for individual customers that are vulnerable to momentary drops in voltage in the power delivery network. SMES components are housed in a semi-tractor trailer and attached to transformers at utility sub-stations at strategic locations within a power grid (D-SMES configuration) or installed as an interface between a utility power supply and an industrial user to improve power quality (PQ-SMES configuration).
When a voltage drop is detected by the unit's power electronics, SMES instantaneously injects precise amounts of both real and reactive power into the system it is protecting, thereby keeping voltage levels stable. SMES provides a low maintenance, cost effective and flexible solution for utilities, Internet data centres and process intensive industrial users to dramatically improve transmission level reliability and facility power quality.

Wisconsin Public Service is the principal utility subsidiary of WPS Resources. The electric and natural gas utility is headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin and serves more than 430,000 customers in north-eastern and north central Wisconsin, as well as a small portion of Michigan's upper peninsula.

American Superconductor, headquartered in Westborough, Massachusetts, was founded in 1987 and is a world leader in developing and manufacturing products utilising super-conducting materials and power electronic devices for electric power applications. The company's products, and products sold by electrical equipment manufacturers that incorporate its products, can dramatically increase the capacity and reliability of power delivery networks, significantly reduce the manufacturing costs of electrical equipment such as motors and generators, lower electrical operating costs and conserve resources that are used to produce electric power. American Superconductor manufactures its SMES product line in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Source: Business Wire via Newspage
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