SuperPower Inc., based in Schenectady, NY, develops and manufactures high-performance second-generation high temperature superconductor (2G-HTS) wire, or “coated conductor,” that provides important advantages over conventional wire for applications in energy, medical technologies, alternative energy, transportation, military, space, industry, science and research. Superconductors offer lossless transmission of electrical current, which enables high current density, high power density, high efficiency, low energy loss, reduced size and weight, and safety and environmental advantages over alternative solutions.
HTS wires can carry up to more than 100 times the current density of a comparably sized copper wire, which isespecially appealing for transmission cables in congested urban areas and for locations where there are limited rights-of-way. HTS devices are often cooled with liquid nitrogen, which is far safer and more environmentally friendly than the flammable and polluting oils used in conventional high-power devices. The high energy density of HTS devices results in much smaller footprintsthat are easier and more secure to site.
HTS conductors have multiple potential applications in the electrical grid. Apart being used in transmission cables, HTS technology is valuable for transformers, fault current limiters, generators, and Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES) devices. Superconducting Fault Current Limiters (SFCLs) can provide enhanced stability and efficiency to the power delivery system, reduce or even eliminate wide-area blackouts, reduce localized disruptions, and improve recovery time when faults do occur. SFCL’s are essentially invisible components in the electrical system under normal operation. When a fault current is present, the SFCL is quenched out of the superconducting state and injects impedance into the line, reducing current levels to safe values.
SMES is a novel technology that stores electricity from the grid within the magnetic field of a coil comprised of superconducting wire with near-zero loss of energy.A typical SMES installation consists of two parts – a cryogenically cooled superconducting coil and a power conditioning system – that are motionless and result in higher reliability than many other power storage devices. SMES is a device that can be inserted into the grid that is able to store and discharge large quantities of power almost instantaneously. SMES improves power quality for critical loads and provides carryover energy during momentary voltage sags and power outages. It improves load leveling between renewable energy sources and the transmission and distribution network. It also enhances transmission line capacity and performance, featuring a high dynamic range, an almost infinite cycling capability, and an energy recovery rate close to 100%.
SuperPower was part of a team sponsored by ARPA-E to develop a 20kW ultra-high field SMES system with a 2 MJ capacity. The team included ABB Inc., Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the University of Houston. The system wasdesigned for deployment in medium voltage distribution networks at 15-36 kV. The project began in 2011and concluded in 2014. The SMES coil was then transferred to an ARL sponsored program to look at integrating the 2 MJ class coil into a tactical microgrid environment. This program is ongoing.
SuperPower’s technology is based on second-generation (2G) HTS wire based on (RE)BCO (rare earth barium copper oxide) materials. The 2G HTS wire is fabricated by an automated, continuous process using thin-film deposition technology. The company is capable of delivering large volumes of long-length, high-performance wire whose advantages include high temperature operation, better performance in background magnetic field, lighter and smaller devices and a “green” technology that is safe and environmentally friendly. SuperPower was formed by Intermagnetics General in 2000, became part of Philips Holdings when Intermagnetics was acquired, and was subsequently acquired by Furukawa Electric Company in 2012. It is now a wholly owned subsidiary of that organization.