Concern over grid reliability has been coming to the forefront in recent years, and a newly announced cutting-edge project involving a Midwest utility, an energy technology company, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may signal the future of not only grid reliability, but also utility electric wiring and substation interconnection in general.
Chicago-based ComEd has entered into a partnership with AMSC, a Massachusetts-based energy technology company, to deploy AMSC's high temperature superconductor technology, which will link a number of ComEd's substations to each other with the goal of enhancing Chicago's load-serving capacity, resilience and reliability.
The project is funded in part by the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security as a new step in securing the nation's electric grid against outages caused by any number of catastrophic events—man-made and natural.
The ComEd project will be the first commercial installation in the nation of what is called resilient electric grid (REG) technology.
"This installation of AMSC's REG system is part of ComEd's vision to deploy new technology that supports the evolution of a smarter and more resilient electric grid," said Terence R. Donnelly, ComEd's president and CEO. "We will monitor and measure the impact of this project to determine whether to apply the technology elsewhere in Chicago or in other areas of our service territory."
The current design of grid infrastructure in a number of urban areas makes restoration of power after a catastrophic event time-consuming, expensive and unpredictable. REG is a self-healing solution that provides redundancy in the event portions of the grid are lost for any reason.
REG technology is able to increase the reliability and load-serving capacity of the electric grid by enabling the use of transmission and distribution assets in a way that is not feasible with traditional technologies, while, at the same time, limiting the need for additional grid infrastructure, thus reducing cost.
The key component of REG is AMSC's Amperium wire, which combines with other subsystem design elements to increase the reliability, redundancy and resilience of power grids, greatly reducing the impact of equipment failures due to aging, cyber threats, physical disasters and weather-related events. AMSC claims Amperium wire is able to conduct more power than traditional aluminum or copper lines without losing any energy from heat loss or resistance, thus making the interconnection of once separate substations now feasible at a reasonable cost.
ComEd estimates that the project will be operational by 2021.