DoE Taps American Superconductor to Lead Cable Project

April 27, 2003 by Jeff Shepard

American Superconductor Corp. announced its selection by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) as prime contractor for a high temperature superconductor (HTS) power transmission cable project in the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) transmission grid. The nearly half-mile power cable system will be the world's first installation of a superconductor cable in a live grid at transmission voltages.

"This work will help provide solutions to power quality and electric reliability problems, bringing the benefits of superconductivity more quickly to the U.S. electrical industry and the American people," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. "Highly visible public-private partnerships such as this will encourage industry to develop and test prototype equipment for the U.S. electric power system and expand the Department's research and development of superconductivity to support the President's National Energy Plan."

Capable of powering 300,000 homes, the 2,000-foot transmission circuit will be located underground in an existing right of way in East Garden City, Long Island. With a capacity of 600 megawatts, the 138-kilovolt superconductor cable system will be an integral part of the LIPA grid and is expected to be installed and operating by the end of 2005. Superconductor cables typically carry three- to five-times more power than conventional cables of the same size and can be installed in existing rights of way -- helping reduce the cost and environmental impact of grid upgrades.

"Siting new transmission lines has become a formidable challenge in congested areas such as Long Island," said Michael Hervey, director of Transmission and Distribution for LIPA. "Superconductor cables can transmit substantially more power than conventional cables in the same right of way, which will help us to continue meeting our customers' growing demands for electricity. This technology is a powerful new tool for relieving grid constraints reliably and unobtrusively."

The superconductor cable will be manufactured by Nexans using HTS wire manufactured by American Superconductor in its new wire manufacturing facility in Devens, Mass. -- the world's first commercial volume HTS manufacturing plant. Air Liquide will provide refrigeration equipment and oversee operation of the cryogenic cooling system for the cable system. Based in Paris, Nexans is the worldwide leader in the cable industry and in manufacturing cryogenic insulation systems, which are required for superconductor cables. Air Liquide, also based in Paris, is the world's leading supplier of industrial and medical gases and related services, including cryogenic refrigeration systems.

"Superconductor wires have come of age and are being incorporated in many new large-scale electrical applications including motors, generators and power cables," said Greg Yurek, chief executive of American Superconductor. "Our LIPA project is one of three new superconductor cable projects being started in the U.S. this year with DOE support and one of a total of 10 HTS cable projects worldwide. We believe we are well positioned, based on our wire performance and pricing, to be the wire supplier of choice for all three U.S. projects as well as for those being developed outside the U.S."

The LIPA superconductor cable is a cost-shared, industry-government partnership in which DoE will provide approximately $15 million of the $30 million cost of the project. The balance of the project costs will be borne by the industrial partners. The $15 million in funding from DOE will be recorded as revenue by AMSC primarily during the next 30 months.

After an initial operational period, LIPA plans to retain the new superconductor cable as a permanent part of its grid following performance and economic reviews of the cable system. LIPA and American Superconductor have also discussed plans to install high capacity, low-environmental-impact HTS cables elsewhere in the LIPA grid to address the growing electric power needs on Long Island.