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Resilient Electric Grid (REG)

Combining Transmission Level Power at Distribution Level Voltages with Fault Current Management to Enhance the Safety, Security and Load Serving Capability of Urban Electric Grids.
A white paper by AMSC®, September 2014

Executive Summary
Increasingly intense weather events, terrorist threats, and aging infrastructure… These are all challenges that the world is facing today. These challenges represent significant threats to the electric grid, which is fundamental to our way of life. Without reliable power, basic human needs, such as food, clean water, and protection from the elements would quickly become a challenge. The economy

would grind to a halt without access to fuel, banks, and the Internet. In short, a reliable and resilient electric grid is central to our safety, security, and economy.
Consider just a handful of recent events:
• Weather: When Hurricane Sandy swept ashore in October 2012, 8 million utility customers along the Eastern Seaboard, including major centers of economy, were without power for days and
weeks and fuel distribution networks were paralyzed.1 The White House has estimated that power outages caused by severe
weather between 2003 and 2012 cost the United States economy somewhere between $18 and $33 billion.2
• Equipment Failure: In March 2012, an event at a substation in Boston caused a fire and a two day blackout in one of the city’s busiest residential and commercial neighborhoods. Equipment
failure caused similar outages at the same substation again in May 2012 and in June 2013.3
• Terrorism: In April 2013, snipers opened fire on a substation in Silicon Valley. The former chairman of the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC) called the attack the most
significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that

has ever occurred. In fact, the former chairman believes that if a surprisingly small number of substations were knocked out at once, the entire system could be destabilized enough to cause a blackout that could encompass most the United States.4 Terrorist organizations around the globe were linked to 2,500 attacks on transmission lines or towers and at least 500 substations from 1996 to 2006.5

• Cyber Security: Beyond physical attacks, cyber attacks could take down the grid by disabling internet communications and
important pieces of equipment. According to a Wall Street
Journal analysis of emergency reports that utilities file with the federal government, 13 cyber incidents have occurred in the
past three years.6
Beyond providing resiliency during calamitous events, urban utilities are also challenged with population growth. The population in “urbanized areas”7 is growing at a faster rate (14.3% from 2000 to 2010) than the overall population growth (9.7% from 2000 to

2010).8 In fact, 71.2% of the U.S. population now lives in urbanized areas. There are strong efforts underway to improve efficiency and add distributed generation where possible, however, this is likely not enough. Increasing load creates a substantial challenge for urban utilities. Adding facilities and equipment is more expensive in the urban environment because of the higher cost of land. Additionally, in the urban environment, reliability requirements are more strict and operating requirements, such as noise, safety, footprint, and access are more difficult.

The REG System
AMSC’s Resilient Electric Grid system is designed to interconnect critical urban substations, enabling them to share transmission connections and excess station capacity, while controlling the high fault currents that naturally result from such connections. By enabling the sharing of assets, urban utilities can “keep the lights on” and ensure the safety and security of residents following calamitous events. Additionally, interconnecting substations can enable utilities to increase the load serving capacity of existing substation equipment.

Many times, current urban substation design provides for
redundant capacity. However, that capacity is typically not
accessible by the rest of the network. By interconnecting
substations, utilities are able to utilize the redundant capacity that is already built into the system. This provides added reliability in the event that one substation is rendered unusable and increased load serving capability during normal conditions.

Sandalow, D. (2012, November 30). Hurricane Sandy and Our Energy Infrastructure. Retrieved from: 2
Executive Office of the President. (2013, August). Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages. 3

Young, C., Botelho, A. (2013, June 9). Power now restored to Back Bay residents after early morning outage. Boston Globe. 4, 5.6

Smith, R. (2014, February 5). Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism. Wall Street Journal. 7

Urbanized areas defined as 50,000 or more people.
United States Census Bureau. 2012. Growth in Urban Population Outpaces Rest of Nation, Census Bureau Reports. [Press Release]. Retrieved from: 1


HTS – The Enabling Technology

Alternatives to REG System

The REG solution is enabled by AMSC’s second generation (2G) high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire, an inherently smart material. A superconductor wire has extremely high levels of power density, which means that it can carry extremely large amounts of power within a very small cross section of material. It is also inherently fault current limiting. Traditional copper material does not have the power density or the fault current limiting features required to interconnect substations.

Traditionally, if a utility wants to increase capacity, the standard option is to build a new substation or expand an existing
substation. Building or expanding a substation often requires the acquisition of land which is an expensive proposition in the urban environment. New substations require new transmission lines into the substation, new transformers, and all the associated protection and switchgear. Depending on the city, expanding an existing substation or building a new substation can cost anywhere from the tens of millions to over one billion dollars.

AMSC’s superconductor wire is made up of HTS material, which is sandwiched between two layers of metal lamina...

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