Basic Research Needs for Superconductivity. Report of the Basic Energy Sciences Workshop on Superconductivity, May 8-11, 2006

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As an energy carrier, electricity has no rival with regard to its environmental cleanliness, flexibility in interfacing with multiple production sources and end uses, and efficiency of delivery. In fact, the electric power grid was named ?the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century? by the National Academy of Engineering. This grid, a technological marvel ingeniously knitted together from local networks growing out from cities and rural centers, may be the biggest and most complex artificial system ever built. However, the growing demand for electricity will soon challenge the grid beyond its capability, compromising its reliability through voltage fluctuations that ... continued below

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Sarrao, J.; Kwok, W-K; Bozovic, I.; Mazin, I.; Seamus, J. C.; Civale, L. et al. May 11, 2006.

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As an energy carrier, electricity has no rival with regard to its environmental cleanliness, flexibility in interfacing with multiple production sources and end uses, and efficiency of delivery. In fact, the electric power grid was named ?the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century? by the National Academy of Engineering. This grid, a technological marvel ingeniously knitted together from local networks growing out from cities and rural centers, may be the biggest and most complex artificial system ever built. However, the growing demand for electricity will soon challenge the grid beyond its capability, compromising its 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 and subsequent blackouts in London, Scandinavia, and Italy in the same year. The North American blackout affected 50 million people and caused approximately $6 billion in economic damage over the four days of its duration. Superconductivity offers powerful new opportunities for restoring the reliability of the power grid and increasing its capacity and efficiency. Superconductors are capable of carrying current without loss, making the parts of the grid they replace dramatically more efficient. Superconducting wires carry up to five times the current carried by copper wires that have the same cross section, thereby providing ample capacity for future expansion while requiring no increase in the number of overhead access lines or underground conduits. Their use is especially attractive in urban areas, where replacing copper with superconductors in power-saturated underground conduits avoids expensive new underground construction. Superconducting transformers cut the volume, weight, and losses of conventional transformers by a factor of two and do not require the contaminating and flammable transformer oils that violate urban safety codes. Unlike traditional grid technology, superconducting fault current limiters are smart. They increase their resistance abruptly in response to overcurrents from faults in the system, thus limiting the overcurrents and protecting the grid from damage. They react fast in both triggering and automatically resetting after the overload is cleared, providing a new, self-healing feature that enhances grid reliability. Superconducting reactive power regulators further enhance reliability by instantaneously adjusting reactive power for maximum efficiency and stability in a compact and economic package that is easily sited in urban grids. Not only do superconducting motors and generators cut losses, weight, and volume by a factor of two, but they are also much more tolerant of voltage sag, frequency instabilities, and reactive power fluctuations than their conventional counterparts. The challenge facing the electricity grid to provide abundant, reliable power will soon grow to crisis proportions. Continuing urbanization remains the dominant historic demographic trend in the United States and in the world. By 2030, nearly 90% of the U.S. population will reside in cities and suburbs, where increasingly strict permitting requirements preclude bringing in additional overhead access lines, underground cables are saturated, and growth in power demand is highest. The power grid has never faced a challenge so great or so critical to our future productivity, economic growth, and quality of life. Incremental advances in existing grid technology are not capable of solving the urban power bottleneck. Revolutionary new solutions are needed ? the kind that come only from superconductivity.

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  • Report No.: None
  • Grant Number: None
  • DOI: 10.2172/899129 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 899129
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc879508

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  • May 11, 2006

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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Sarrao, J.; Kwok, W-K; Bozovic, I.; Mazin, I.; Seamus, J. C.; Civale, L. et al. Basic Research Needs for Superconductivity. Report of the Basic Energy Sciences Workshop on Superconductivity, May 8-11, 2006, report, May 11, 2006; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc879508/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.