Superconductor Pipelines Being Developed for Renewable Energy Market Hub

American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC) announced that its superconductor electricity pipeline technology has been chosen for the Tres Amigas Project, the first renewable energy market hub in the U.S. The superconductor electricity pipelines will include transmission-level direct current (DC) superconductor power cables powered by AMSC high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire and high-powered voltage-source AC/DC power converters.

The Tres Amigas Project, which was announced this week Albuquerque by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, focuses on uniting America’s three power grids for the first time to enable faster adoption of renewable energy and increase the reliability of the U.S. grid.

The three U.S. power grids, or interconnections are known as the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and the Texas Interconnection. Power transmission within these three power grids is accomplished primarily utilizing alternating current (AC) power transmission lines.

Power transfer between any two of the Interconnections, however, can only be accomplished through special power electronic conversion stations. This is commonly achieved by first converting AC power in one grid to DC as an intermediate power form at a substation, then reconverting from DC back to AC before reaching the adjacent grid.

This, in effect, synchronizes power flows. While there are several relatively small bilateral DC Links existing today between two Interconnections, all three Interconnections have never been united by one system.

The Tres Amigas renewable energy market hub will be a multi-mile, triangular electricity pathway of Superconductor Electricity Pipelines capable of transferring and balancing many gigawatts of renewable power between the three Interconnections.

Similar to highway rotaries used for traffic flow control, multiple power transmission lines from each of the Interconnections will feed power into and out of the Tres Amigas SuperStation through multiple AC/DC converters, each connected by DC superconductor cables.

Tres Amigas, which will be a balancing authority, will help ensure the efficient and reliable flow of power from multiple renewable generation sources in all three power grids to customers across a wide area of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. As a merchant transmission system, Tres Amigas will charge a fee for usage of the power hub.

The Tres Amigas renewable energy market hub will be constructed in Clovis, New Mexico, a location that has easy access to all three of the nation’s power grids. New Mexico’s State Land Office already has granted Tres Amigas LLC the right to lease 14,400 acres of land in Clovis for this system.

Tres Amigas, LLC is now in the process of filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a declaratory order that transmission lines that connect to Tres Amigas from ERCOT will not come under the jurisdiction of FERC and that Tres Amigas can be operated as a merchant transmission entity.

Following the project’s approval, AMSC is expected to provide transmission planning services, superconductor wire and the superconductor cable system for the project. AMSC intends to partner with some of the industry’s leading superconductor power cable and system component companies to manufacture the cable system to AMSC’s specification.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to help unify the United States power grid and achieve the nation’s renewable energy goals,” said Greg Yurek, founder and chief executive officer of American Superconductor. “The time has come to utilize the latest technologies to not only balance renewable energy flows to get more clean electricity to customers, but also to increase the reliability and security of our power grids. Tres Amigas will help achieve these important goals.”

AMSC has acquired a minority equity interest in Tres Amigas LLC for US $1.75 million in cash and AMSC stock.

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