1 November 2002 – American Superconductor Corporation issued an update Thursday on recent advances in the utilization of high temperature superconductor (HTS) wires in electric power applications, including power generation, transmission and distribution, and ship propulsion electric motors.

Power Generation: On October 28, GE announced its plans for the development of high efficiency electric generators based on high temperature superconductor (HTS) wires. At its kick-off meeting with the Department of Energy, GE Power Systems vice president Joe Ebacher presented GE’s vision “to take HTS technology from a place where it holds promise, to full commercial viability.”

According to GE, “Recent progress in HTS wire manufacturing has helped pave the way for the development of an HTS generator with the potential for competitive cost, high reliability, rapid market introduction and a high probability of acceptance by the power industry.” GE is currently demonstrating an HTS rotor for a 1.5 MVA generator that uses HTS wire made by AMSC. GE plans to also build and test a utility-scale 100 MVA generator, for which AMSC has been named the primary wire supplier.

Power Transmission & Distribution: The October issue of the Digital Power Report focuses on the growing demands on the transmission and distribution grid in the U.S. and the clear need to upgrade this backbone of our daily lives to meet the need for increasing amounts of electricity at higher levels of reliability. The demands to upgrade the power network are real and urgent and are recognized at the highest levels within the electric industry and government. As stated in the report, “We aren’t talking policy wonk papers any more; a broad consensus is now forming in favour of substantial new investment in transmission and distribution.”

Digital Power Report authors Peter Huber and Mark Mills point to technologies that are available and are under demonstration today that can be applied to upgrade power networks. Commercially available technologies include Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS), such as AMSC’s D-SMES and D- VAR(TM) systems, which are power electronic products utilized to increase grid reliability and power flows through existing grids. The authors also point to HTS power cables, which are in the demonstration stage today, as a key technology for relieving grid congestion and upgrading power networks.

According to the report, spending on power transmission has been in sharp decline over the last 30 years. Huber and Mills comment that ” … like the interstate highway system for cars, the main investments in the electron highways were decades ago,” but “unlike highways, the carrying capacity of electron pathways can be dramatically upgraded with modern hardware.”