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World's First HTS Power Transmission Cable System is Underway

Nexans, American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC), Air Liquide, Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) today celebrated the commissioning of the world’s first high temperature superconductor (HTS) power transmission cable system in a commercial power grid. Partners will now focus on the second phase of the LIPA HTS project.

This will see the deployment of a new cable based on second generation (2G) HTS tapes that offer the potential for a more cost-effective cable system, as well as jointing solutions - with the objective of developing a commercial product suitable for power links of several kilometres in length.

“Long Island Power Authority has a strong interest in the development of superconductor technologies and is the first utility in the world to commission an HTS power transmission cable system,” said LIPA President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Law. “We view superconductor power cables as an important option in our technology portfolio that will help us further enhance the reliability of our grid as we meet our customers’ increasing demands for electric power.”

The HTS cable system installed in LIPA’s power grid contains hair-thin, ribbon-shaped HTS wires that conduct 150 times the electricity of similar sized copper wires. This power density advantage enables transmission voltage HTS cables to utilize far less wire and yet conduct up to five times more power – in a smaller right of way – than traditional copper-based cables. The 138 kV, 600-metre power link, comprising three HTS cable phases running in parallel was energized on April 22 2008 and is operating successfully in LIPA’s Holbrook transmission right of way. When operated at full capacity the HTS cable system is capable of transmitting up to 574 MW of electricity – enough to power 300,000 homes.

The purpose of the LIPA project, which is supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE), is to provide a real-life demonstration of the application of an HTS cable within an electric utility’s operational transmission system. The DOE sees HTS cables as a core component of a modern electricity superhighway, one that is free of bottlenecks and can readily transmit power to customers from remote generating sites, such as wind farms.

The cable system, including six outdoor terminations for connection to LIPA’s grid, was designed, manufactured and installed by Nexans. The cable utilizes HTS wire produced by American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC), which also is the prime contractor for the project. Air Liquide, the world leader in cryogenics, has provided the liquid nitrogen refrigeration system.

“Nexans remains committed to providing the electric utility industry with advanced technologies, and HTS power cables are among our most promising offerings,” said Pascal Portevin, Chief Corporate Officer in charge of Strategic Operations, Nexans. “The unique ability of superconductor cables to deliver large amounts of power through small corridors offers a key solution for congested urban and metropolitan power grids. The success of the first phase of this project shows we are clearly ready to deploy HTS cables more broadly in utility power grids.”

LIPA second phase

The second phase of the LIPA HTS project involves the same partners (Nexans, AMSC and Air Liquide). The introduction of second generation (2G) HTS tapes, which are designed to be significantly cheaper than the first generation HTS conductors used in the initial project, will lead to a more cost-effective cable system – an important step towards commercialization of HTS power cable technology.

LIPA’s existing HTS cable is 600 metres in length. As future multikilometer power links are expected to be composed of cable sections of similar length, the second phase also encompasses the development and demonstration of a suitable cable joint.

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