Beyond the energy savings, there are substantial environmental benefits. According to Drew Hazelton, principal engineer and project lead for SuperPower, "Conventional transformers are filled with toxic and flammable oil for cooling. Approximately one transformer catches fire or explodes each day in the U.S. A fault current limiting superconducting transformer mitigates both of these risks because it is cooled with liquid nitrogen, an inexpensive and readily available and benign substance that will result in safer and 'green' devices."
Protecting the electrical grid from faults that result from lightning strikes, downed power lines and other system interruptions is critical to ensure a safe and reliable flow of power for consumers. The growing demand for electricity over the next century and the aging conventional transformers challenge the grid beyond its capability, compromising reliability through voltage fluctuations that crash digital electronics, brownouts that disable industrial processes and harm electrical equipment, and power failures like the North American blackout in 2003 that affected 50 million people and caused approximately $6 billion in economic damage over the four days of its duration.
"The superconducting wire we are working on here at the University of Houston has a unique property in that it allows electricity to flow without any resistance, but at the same time it limits the current flow to tolerable levels in instances of a sudden spike in power. It's like a power valve," said Selvamanickam. "Utilities use circuit breakers that are very expensive and, if they trip, the customer doesn't have power for a period of time. The transformer that will be constructed in this project will have inherent fault current limiting features, providing an added bonus," said Selvamanickam.
The fault current limiting feature of the transformer provides critical protection and significantly reduces wear a
|Contact: Melissa Carroll|
University of Houston