American Superconductor's Solution for Power Grid

August 01, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

American Superconductor (Westbororough, MA) and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (WPS, Green Bay, WI) has announced the successful operation of what they claim is 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.Distributed SMES systems are virtual generators, which are 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.Combined with 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 center sites.SMES components are housed in a semi-tractor trailer and attached to transformers at utility substations at strategic locations. These locations are within a power grid or installed as an interface between a utility power supply and an industrial user, to improve power quality. When a voltage drop is detected by the unit's power electronics, the SMES instantaneously injects precise amounts of both real and reactive power into the system it is protecting, thereby keeping voltage levels stable.American Semiconductor's exclusive channel to the U.S. utility market for SMES is GE Industrial Systems, a business of General Electric Company. The D-SMES product line for U.S. utilities is co-branded by GE and American Superconductor.