ComEd enhances grid resilience with new superconductor technology

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US utility ComEd has deployed a new technology that will enable the company to enhance the resilience of its grid network against cyber and physical threats.

The Resilient Electric Grid (REG) system, which was developed by the American Superconductor Company (AMSC) and funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is expected to help ComEd to reduce power outages that result from severe weather events and cyberattacks.

The technology leverages a superconductor that carries 200 times more voltage than standard copper wire to eliminate electrical resistance and losses on the distribution grid.

To achieve superconductivity on ComEd’s power lines, the system injects liquid nitrogen to keep power lines cold enough to avoid the release of electricity.

ComEd is the first utility in the US to install the AMSC REG system into the grid and will test and monitor the technology across its distribution network over the next year. The pilot will include connecting the system to the utility’s substations, a development that would create a back-up system to keep power flowing in the event of a major power grid interruption.

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Terence R.Donnelly, COO of ComEd, said the project is part of efforts by the utility to modernise its grid, ensure network reliability and enhance services to its customers.

He said the initiative is a measure by ComEd to leverage innovation to prepare for future business cases and address some of today’s pressing challenges hindering the operations of utilities, including climate change.

Alexander Joves, regional director of cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency, DHS, added: “investments in science and technology can pave the way for new capabilities and new innovation” with the energy sector. He added that owing to the importance of the grid to the economy, national security and well-being, “strengthening the security and resilience of critical infrastructure” is a must.

Daniel P. McGahn, the CEO of AMSC, reiterated: “Traditional grid design has called for isolating substations, which enables utilities to protect their systems but that prevents them from being able to reroute power from one substation to another.

“The REG system allows for substations to be interconnected, creating the flexibility to provide a pathway to move power from one substation to another. Utilities that have deployed innovative technology, like ComEd, are well positioned to benefit from the REG system and enhance service to customers.”