This summer, when the demand for electricity to run pool pumps, fans and air conditioners is at its peak, power customers in Albany, N.Y., will get some extra capacity thanks to new technology. A system that eliminates the resistance that causes power losses in traditional copper cables has begun operating, providing enough power for more than 70,000 area households.
The power boost is the result of a multi-year project led by one of the world's largest industrial gases suppliers, BOC, along with Schenectady, N.Y.-based SuperPower, Inc., a subsidiary of Intermagnetics General Corporation's and Osaka, Japan-based Sumitomo Electric Industries. Together, the companies have commissioned the first in-grid, high temperature superconductivity (HTS) cable project in the U.S.
Between electric utility National Grid's Riverside and Menands substations in Albany and directly below Interstate 90, superconducting wire is wrapped to form 350 meters of cable. To achieve superconductivity, or zero resistance, the wire and cables are cooled inside a vacuum jacket containing liquid nitrogen, pumped and cooled continuously by an innovative cryogenic system designed by BOC.
"A growing economy depends on reliable and efficient electricity delivery," said Ed Garcia, vice president, PGS Ventures, BOC. "One HTS cable can deliver three to five times more power than a conventional cable. This means utilities can accommodate demand increases without having to add multiple distribution lines. With the U.S. Department of Energy projecting world electricity demand to grow at an average rate of 2.6 percent per year, this startup is particularly timely as we work to develop new solutions for our aging energy infrastructure."
HTS cable is particularly useful in congested urban areas because it can be installed wherever conventional cables currently run without acquiring new rights-of-way or digging new pathways. In Albany, the HTS cable is underground where electricity bottlenecks typically occur, increasing potential power losses. The HTS cable eliminates those losses and enables the power level to be maintained throughout the system.
"As we learned from the August 2003 blackout, sudden rises in demand for electricity can overload generators and trip circuit breakers, propelling thousands into darkness for days. BOC has worked with our partnering companies to develop a system that both strengthens and improves our existing electrical systems, helping to meet the increasing demands of today's businesses and consumers," Garcia said.
Since work on the $26 million HTS cable project began nearly three years ago, the technology behind the HTS system has been tested extensively, ensuring it can withstand real-world rigors and demands, such as ground faults and trips. To ensure reliability, BOC is monitoring the HTS cable system from its Remote Operating Center in Bethlehem, Pa. Real-time indicators at the center allow operators to make necessary adjustments to the cryogenic system to keep the cable system running.
Project funding was provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which in 2005 ranked the project number one in terms of progress among the nine HTS projects currently underway in the U.S.