A new type of wire called high-temperature superconductor (HTS) is now on the market and is able to deliver 150 times the electricity of traditional wires. The new material is expected to boost the efficiency of power lines, generators and industrial motors.

Only about a dozen firms around the globe now manufacture HTS wire, including American Superconductor Corp. (ASC), based in Massachusetts. ASC received an order in 2006 for 22,000 meters of HTS wire from Korea, and ASC will provide the U.S. Navy with a superconducting motor made from HTS wire for its newest warship. ASC is also shipping its new SuperVAR capacitor to the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is designed to mitigate power spikes and fulfill the need for reactive power. Reactive power is an essential for maintaining grid stability, and too little of it can lead to failures like the 2003 Northeast blackout.

Industry analysts forecast that the U.S. power industry will spend tens of billions of dollars to strengthen the grid, which includes HTS items. Consultant Alison Silverstein predicts that superconductors will be used at substations, in congested utility tunnels or in wind power generators to aid in regulation.

ASC’s president Greg Yurek predicts that the firm’s second-generation wire will have approximately the same price performance as copper by 2010.     EC

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