The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

June - 2004 - issue > Technology

Plotting to Power: SuperPowers HTS

Arun Veembur
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Arun Veembur
In the aftermath of the blackouts of August 2003 that left large parts of the northeastern United States and Canada in darkness, there was widespread consensus that something needs to be done to avoid the numbing power cuts that loom over the U.S. and a power-hungry world. Towards that end, Super Power Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Intermagnetics General Corporation in Schenectady, NY is innovating to replace a key component of the power transmission world: copper.

Copper is fast becoming a painfully outdated way to transmit large amounts of power. Though its resistance is lower than many other metals, the amount of resistance is still significant enough to cause huge losses—some 7-8 percent of electricity is currently lost in transmission.

Superconductors can do the job a lot better. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) says that about half these losses could be avoided if superconductors were used. The money saved would amount to a whopping $16 billion every year. This would also mean a reduction in the amount of fossil fuels burnt, and the consequent reduction of atmospheric pollutions.

The DoE also estimates that the lower power losses inherent in superconducting power lines, for example, could eliminate the need for about 500 trillion BTU of coal-fired generation each year. That would mean about 131 million tons of carbondioxide, 24,232 tons of nitrous dioxide and 846,000 tons of sulphur dioxide would not be released into the atmosphere each year. In the U.S. alone, full implementation of superconducting technology could offset the emissions of the equivalent of 40 medium-sized conventional power generation plants.


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