A majority of American Superconductor's second generation (2G) high-temperature superconductor (HTS) wire - known as 344 superconductors - being shipped by AMSC in its current fiscal year ending March 31, 2007, is being used in the development of fault current limiters. Fault current limiters act as high-voltage surge protectors for power grids to increase grid reliability.
"Fault current levels are posing significant challenges in many utility grids around the country and have the potential to cause widespread brownouts and blackouts," said Syed Ahmed, consulting engineer, transmission and distribution business unit of Southern California Edison. "HTS fault current limiters are a unique solution that will help address and accommodate projected load growth, without endangering our grid operations."
344 superconductors are smart materials because they possess unique physical properties that allow them to conduct electricity with no resistance under normal operating conditions, while also being able to recognize and then instantaneously suppress large surges of electrical current by switching to the resistive state. Suppressing spikes of electrical current is important because it prevents damage to expensive electrical equipment in power grids.
"The race for market leadership in HTS fault current limiters is on. There has been strong demand for fault current limiters among domestic and overseas utilities, and, with our 344 superconductors now available, we are beginning to capitalize on this significant business opportunity," said Greg Yurek, chief executive officer and founder, American Superconductor. "In addition to our own fault current limiter product development effort with Siemens, at least seven other electrical equipment developers in four countries are now utilizing 344 superconductors to develop fault current limiters. This is a vast new market opportunity for HTS that the U.S. Department of Energy forecasts to be in the billions of dollars."