22 May 2007

New York City Plans Underground Superconducting Power Grid

A lot of infrastructure that takes up space above ground could be better placed underground. In this earlier Al Fin posting, Columbus, Ohio's project for placing superconducting electrical cable underground was discussed--and this link that contains an amazing flash video displaying the revolutionary possibilities of superconducting electrical cable was provided.

Now, New York City is planning to install a large electrical backbone of superconducting cable beneath the city, in 2010. They are calling it an "attack-proof power line", but of course that is just hype. What it is, is a revolution in urban planning.
The cable will link two substations in Manhattan. The department said the project could lead to further deployment of the technology, which also suppresses power surges.

"We have asked AMSC and Consolidated Edison to demonstrate superconductor solutions in New York City that will serve to keep our centers of commerce on line under all conditions--including grid events related to severe weather, accidents or terrorist attacks," Jay Cohen, the Department of Homeland Security's undersecretary for technology, said in a statement on Monday.

High-temperature superconducting cables made with ceramic materials can carry 10 times more power than traditional cables, but are costly and face technological challenges.

Superconducting cable must be cooled with liquid nitrogen to -382 degrees Fahrenheit (-230 Celsius). At that point, conductivity resistance falls, allowing the cables to carry the extra power.

The New York project will be carried out in two stages, with deployment of the cable by 2010, a spokesman for American Superconductor said.

Modern superconductors do not have to be cooled to near absolute zero with expensive liquid helium, or potentially dangerous liquid hydrogen. Liquid nitrogen is relatively inexpensive, and safe. Superconducting electrical cables are within reach of most large cities, and are better buried underground. Superconducting levitating trains should not be far off. Superconducting magnetic space launch should significantly lower the launch cost for non-biological payloads.

The payoff from 20 year old advances in advanced superconductors is only just beginning to show. In 20 years from now, expect a lot more of the electrical power transmission and distribution infrastructure to be underground. Also expect several technological spinoffs from superconducting technology that as of now, not many people are talking about.


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