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High-Temp Superconductors To Connect Power Grids

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the what've-y'-got-t'-swop? dept.

Power 332

physburn writes "Somewhere in a triangle between Roswell (UFO) NM, Albuquerque (Left Turn) NM, and Amarillo (Do you know the way?) TX, a 22.5 square mile triangle of High Temperature Superconductor pipeline is to be built. Each leg of the triangle can carry 5GW of electricity. The purpose to load-balance and sell electricity between America's three power grids. Previously the Eastern Grid, Western Grid and Texan Grid have been separate, preventing cheap electricity being sold from one end of America to the other. The Tres Amiga Superstation, as it is to be called, will finally connect the three grids. The superstation is also designed to link renewable solar and wind power in the grids, and is to use HTS wire from American Superconductor. Some 23 years after its invention, today HTS comes of age. "

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Five jiggawatts?! (4, Funny)

friedo (112163) | about 5 years ago | (#29733595)

That's enough to power slightly more than four time machines.

Shocking times we live in (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733783)

I wonder if there is a difference in the potential of this technology and other high throughput power transferring systems. I think being able to distribute power has the capacity to put us on the road to using more electricity as opposed to oil based fuel. That's all we've needed: a kick in the joules to get us on a better path.

Shocking times indeed. I just need to remember to stay grounded; You can never know exactly when and where technological progress will come from.

Re:Shocking times we live in (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733847)

You know what else is shocking? The niggers! The african jungle bunnies are taking all the fat white women! Oh wait, we weren't doin nothin with those anyway. Nevermind. False alarm.

Re:Five jiggawatts?! (0, Troll)

swanzilla (1458281) | about 5 years ago | (#29733793)

I believe the 2nd-gen machines run on mere garbage

Re:Five jiggawatts?! (1)

amliebsch (724858) | about 5 years ago | (#29734257)

Mr. Fusion powers the time circuits and the flux capacitor. But the internal combustion engine runs on ordinary gasoline; it always has.

I love slashdot. (5, Funny)

localman57 (1340533) | about 5 years ago | (#29733607)

This is why I come to slashdot! A technical article with the right units! 5 GW of electricity. Not 100,000 volts of electricity, not 50,000 Amps of electricity, but 5 GW. Now, that's useful!

Re:I love slashdot. (0, Troll)

craklyn (1533019) | about 5 years ago | (#29733969)

But how much energy is 5 GW in houses supplied with electricity?

Re:I love slashdot. (5, Informative)

localman57 (1340533) | about 5 years ago | (#29734095)

When I was an intern (1996) I worked in the power-forecasting department of a municipal power company. We used to estimate 4kW peak average per house, worst case. Obviously, every house occasionally pulls more, big houses pull more than small houses, etc, but at about 5pm on the hottest day of the summer, we could count on having a power usage of approximately 4kW * number of houses. So, roughly 1.25 million houses.

Not sure if it'd be more or less now. Houses and HVAC are more efficient, but people tend to use more power when they're active now.

Re:I love slashdot. (2, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 5 years ago | (#29734113)

Divided by Libraries of Congress per second?

Re:I love slashdot. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29734079)

Energy is measured in Joules, Watts is a measurement of Power. it is 5 GW of power, not electricity or energy.

Re:I love slashdot. (0, Redundant)

argent (18001) | about 5 years ago | (#29734183)

That's enough to power THREE flux capacitors at once!

Re:I love slashdot. (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 years ago | (#29734281)

Naiive question, but what limits the capacity of superconductor? With no resistance, therefore no overheating, what stops it from being able to carry even more?

Limiting factors (1)

tigre (178245) | about 5 years ago | (#29734349)

My guess would be inductance would be one limiting factor but probably more limiting would be the abilities of the various grids to pump power in or out across the AC/DC and DC/AC converters.

Re:I love slashdot. (2, Insightful)

mog007 (677810) | about 5 years ago | (#29734367)

Perhaps the components which are plugged in at either end of the superconductor?

Four words: (0, Troll)

Pollux (102520) | about 5 years ago | (#29733617)

Central Point of Failure.

Attention terrorists: we have a new target to aim for.

Re:Four words: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733645)

That's why the OP just said it was to be built "somewhere" and didn't mention Clovis.

Oops.

Re:Four words: (0, Troll)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 5 years ago | (#29733815)

Yeah. And the only reason the terrorists haven't done anything yet is the sheer amount of available targets - so many that they cannot decide which one to aim for first :rolleyes

Re:Four words: (2, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 5 years ago | (#29733837)

Central Point of Failure.

Attention terrorists: we have a new target to aim for.

The USA's infrastructure is full of bottlenecks and chokepoints.
Internet/phone/gas/power, airlines, stock markets, highways, warehouses, ports, payment processing, etc etc etc.

This article comes to mind [washingtonpost.com] :
"Classify my dissertation? Crap. Does this mean I have to redo my PhD?" he said. "They're worried about national security. I'm worried about getting my degree." For academics, there always has been the imperative to publish or perish. In Gorman's case, there's a new concern: publish and perish.

He eventually got his PHD and started a GIS company called FortiusOne.

Re:Four words: (5, Funny)

Deosyne (92713) | about 5 years ago | (#29733857)

Oh no, they've disabled our ability to sell electricity from one grid to another!

Re:Four words: (5, Insightful)

belthize (990217) | about 5 years ago | (#29733929)

Meh, why is that getting flagged as insightful.

The current cynicism that any improvement in infrastructure is
a) only for the money
b) going to ruin the planet
c) a target for terrorists
d) too late

is getting really old.

The proposal allows for better distribution of power generation across the continent. Even if it was a target for terrorism so what. If you want to curl up in a little ball because the terrorists might get you knock yourself out.

BTW, knocking this section out doesn't take all 3 grids down.

wake up and smell the capitolism (0, Flamebait)

Brigadier (12956) | about 5 years ago | (#29734321)

Everything is done for money don't think for a second it is otherwise. The only time safety plays a part is after people die. Pick any major failure. Even then the fix is for marketing purposes.

This Grid exists to allow the sale of more power. BTW knocking out this section wont' take down the grid (or so you hope, see north easter black out) but it will destabilize supply, and cause a nice ripple effect in one of the US critical resources.

I'm sure behind this whole thing are a few lobbyist and policy makers carving up who can sell electricity where.

Re:Four words: (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#29734363)

BTW, knocking this section out doesn't take all 3 grids down.

You mean it doesn't necessarily take all 3 grids down, if it's not designed to.

Well, I would design it to. And I would have a big switch where one setting was "America On" and the other would say "America Off". And it would be on the outside of the fence.

Which is probably why they never let me design anything. :(

Re:Four words: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733953)

Except not really, since all three grids are perfectly capable of running independently.

Re:Four words: (0, Troll)

localman57 (1340533) | about 5 years ago | (#29734141)

Except not really, since all three grids are perfectly capable of running independently.

You must be new here. Under the current system a single point of failure during peak-usage conditions has been shown to occasionally cascade into a region-wide failure. This has happened on both the east coast / midwest / canada, and in the west. I wonder if this new interconnect will allow even more of this behavior.

Re:Four words: (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 5 years ago | (#29734111)

Central Point of Failure.

Actually, if you read the article, sounds like they're wiring it "delta" as opposed to "wye" so any individual cut merely reroutes around the long way... And yes I am very well aware that "delta" and "wye" means something very specific w/ regards to three phase power, I was just using the names for topological reference.

What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733629)

Oh boy, so now this [slashdot.org] can be the whole country if it is done right. I mean, wrong. Errr, you know what I mean.

Very nice, but... (4, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | about 5 years ago | (#29733631)

It's a great thing, but the cynical part (85.6%) of me wonders if this means we'll now be able to have national blackouts rather than just regional ones.

Re:Very nice, but... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733803)

Superconducting grid interconnects (and HVDC in general) make power grids more stable because they eliminate synchronization requirements.

Re:Very nice, but... (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | about 5 years ago | (#29734135)

I would really really hope someone else thought of that while they were designing the thing and put some basic protection in there.

Re:Very nice, but... (3, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29734335)

I doubt it. In fact, the people working on it probably submitted this story and are reading all the comments right now, taking notes as they go.

Re:Very nice, but... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#29734397)

Has there ever been an instance of an entire regional grid going out? I mean it certainly made the news when a large portion of California had rolling blackouts, so I'm just assuming that if the entire Western Grid went out, I would have heard of it, and I haven't.

Re:Very nice, but... (2, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#29734407)

Less likely to ahve any black outs. In fact, the whole fake rolling blackout thing Enron did wouldn't be possible had this been set up becasue the state would ahve more avenues to get power.

Let's hope it brings new life to New Mexico (3, Interesting)

Dripdry (1062282) | about 5 years ago | (#29733633)

I can only hope this could begin to revitalize that area of the country. While I'm not a native, I drove through there a while back and it was terribly, terribly depressing. Run-down houses and empty shops in lots of towns, not a pretty sight.

Any native New Mexicans who can give us the low-down?

Re:Let's hope it brings new life to New Mexico (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29734121)

It's still pretty much like that. Please spread the word: no reason to go to New Mexico, might as well stay where you are. It's depressing here. Really. Nothing to see. Move along.

Re:Let's hope it brings new life to New Mexico (1)

Temkin (112574) | about 5 years ago | (#29734193)

I drive thru Clovis every now and then, and always stop for fuel. It's a convenient shortcut from central Texas to I-40, which I find preferable to I-10 when doing a TX to SF Bay RV run. Clovis is in pretty dire circumstances, and it's likely to get worse when the Air Force base closes. I doubt this will do much for their job market.

Re:Let's hope it brings new life to New Mexico (1)

DesertJazz (656328) | about 5 years ago | (#29734277)

I'm not exactly sure where they're putting that in, but it sounds like you're discussing a lot of the reservation areas. That is still unlikely to improve. Since, in most of the tribes, you're not allowed to buy the property (just rent it for a dollar/100years) people aren't willing to build and repair on buildings that they don't even technically own. It would be almost like throwing away money at that point for them. It sounds like a pretty rural part of the state where they're putting this though, may not even be reservation land involved here.

Re:Let's hope it brings new life to New Mexico (4, Informative)

belthize (990217) | about 5 years ago | (#29734297)

Native and current resident. New Mexico is no different than the rest of the states. The rural areas are seeing a steady migration out, the urban areas are seeing a steady migration in.

Some areas like Farmington (North west) or Artesia, Roswell, Carlsbad (east side) are highly susceptible to boom/bust natural gas/oil cycles. Areas like Albuquerque are chugging right along and were hit about the national average by the recent recession. Most of the state is agricultural and is slowly sliding into oblivion like the rest of the nation's non corporate-run agriculture though not merely so hard hit as the wheat belt region.

The current governor is a bit of a twit at times but he's done a decent job getting some higher tech interest in NM. The combination of alternative energy as both a producer of energy and producer of materials, light rail interconnect for Rio Grande corridor and of course the space port may end up putting NM in an promising position.

The state isn't overly rich in resources/industry and agriculture is not a money making proposition for any state/country. The state's future is either in energy or tech or it's doomed to a tail end of the pack future much like most other low pop poor states.

In short I think you've overstated the destitute nature of the state compared to most other comparable states. On the other hand I agree that this newest venture is yet another energy/tech venture within the state which is needed or your observation regarding the state may be prophetically accurate.

Then again all the above it's pretty much true for the nation as a whole.

Hoping for a lower bill (1)

madwheel (1617723) | about 5 years ago | (#29733635)

Maybe one day my electric bill will go down and I can leave all of my computers running... By then SRP will have raised the rates anyway.

Re:Hoping for a lower bill (1)

vertinox (846076) | about 5 years ago | (#29733775)

Maybe one day my electric bill will go down and I can leave all of my computers running... By then SRP will have raised the rates anyway.

See. This is why I still prefer a solar revolution than a nuclear one.

There is nothing wrong with nuclear and I'll be happy the day they get a viable fusion reactor up and running, but you still have to pay someone for that power and generally utility companies always raise rates rather than lower them because they are public companies.

The only way to offset that is to make your own power and the government isn't going to let me build my own breeder reactor anytime soon so I'm more likely to either lower my rates or get off the grid with solar.

And then I don't worry about the grid going out either.

Re:Hoping for a lower bill (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 5 years ago | (#29733993)

I'm more of a nuclear revolution person.

Solar is great as a suppliment, but you need to still provide a steady, reliable base load to the public as a whole. Some buildings stay in operation 24 hours a day, and I don't just mean businesses: hospitals, police stations for example.

People need power at night (sorry solar) on calm days (sorry wind) away from flowing water (sorry hydro-) and hot spots (sorry geothermal).

If cost allows one day, sure, I'll likely pick up some solar panels but on a nationwide scale, nuclear is a bigger priority.

Re:Hoping for a lower bill (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | about 5 years ago | (#29734203)

People need power at night (sorry solar) on calm days (sorry wind) away from flowing water (sorry hydro-) and hot spots (sorry geothermal).

If cost allows one day, sure, I'll likely pick up some solar panels but on a nationwide scale, nuclear is a bigger priority.

Well, the alternative is a smarter grid, where power from windy places, hot places, and sunny places can be transmitted to where it's needed, while high-efficiency storage technology (eg, gravitational kinetic storage, compressed air, flywheels, etc) can be used to even things out for baseload requirements.

That's not to say nuclear doesn't have a role to play. But let's not pretend it's the one and only answer to baseload.

Re:Hoping for a lower bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29734221)

And that is why we need a superconducting transmission system. So we can take wind and heat and water power from places that need it to the places that are open 24 hours a day with some very small losses. If we had a grid big enough, like world wide, we could even have solar from someplace at all times of the day. Nuclear just won't do until the waste issue gets solved, or until people want to stop killing each other with weapons. Fission is really out of the question right now because of the wast, and breeders are not politically feasible right now.

Re:Hoping for a lower bill (1)

vertinox (846076) | about 5 years ago | (#29734247)

Solar is great as a suppliment, but you need to still provide a steady, reliable base load to the public as a whole. Some buildings stay in operation 24 hours a day, and I don't just mean businesses: hospitals, police stations for example.

To be fair, using solar power on home rooftops most likely won't take people off the grid any time soon but it will mitigate the power grid strain they do provide so that the large facilities like hospitals and factories (who can't reasonably use solar power for the needs) won't suffer during the summer noon brownouts caused by AC grid strain.

Where? (2, Informative)

Eevee (535658) | about 5 years ago | (#29733639)

Amarillo (Do you know the way?)

Don't you mean San Jose [lyricsfreak.com] ?

Re:Where? (3, Informative)

woozlewuzzle (532172) | about 5 years ago | (#29733843)

Yeah - they kind of stretched it. Neil Sedaka's song has:

Is this the way to Amarillo?
Every night I’ve been hugging my pillow
dreaming dreams of Amarillo
and sweet Marie who waits for me.
Show me the way to Amarillo
I’ve been weepin’ like a willow
crying over Amarillo
and sweet Marie who waits for me.

Re:Where? (2, Funny)

megamerican (1073936) | about 5 years ago | (#29733871)

The submitter obviously didn't know the way to San Jose and instead of admitting he was wrong changed the song.

Amarillo by propagation speed (1)

turtleshadow (180842) | about 5 years ago | (#29734149)

Amarillo by propagation speed, I buzz at San Antone
Everything that Ive got is just what I turn on.
When that Renewable Energy is high in that Texas sky
Ill be pumping it to county fair.
Amarillo by propagation speed, amarillo Ill be there.

Took my amps in Houston, broke my conductivity in Santa Fe
Lost my Giga watts from resistance somewhere along the way
Well Ill be sell'n for peak when they pull that gate,
And Im hoping that regulator aint blind.

Amarillo by propagation speed, amarillos on my mind.

Amarillo by propagation speed, I buzz at San Antone.
Everything that Ive got is just what I turn on.
I cost a dime, but what I got is mine.
I aint rich, but lord Im reasonably priced.

Amarillo by propagation speed, amarillo Ill be there.
Amarillo by propagation speed, amarillo Ill be there.

Re:Where? (1)

ptbarnett (159784) | about 5 years ago | (#29734299)

Don't you mean San Jose?

I think the submitter meant "Is this the way?"

"(Is this the way to) Amarillo" was recorded by Tony Christie and turned into a big hit in the UK.

This YouTube video just added to the popularity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI5y1cNpbYo [youtube.com]

Tres Amiga (3, Funny)

The Yuckinator (898499) | about 5 years ago | (#29733649)

Lucky Day: Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.
Ned Nederlander: Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there.
Dusty Bottoms: Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find...
Lucky Day, Ned Nederlander, Dusty Bottoms: The Three Amigos!

Re:Tres Amiga (1)

fmobus (831767) | about 5 years ago | (#29734057)

My spanish may be failing me, but "tres amiga" is just wrong. Should've been "tres amigas"

Re:Tres Amiga (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 5 years ago | (#29734159)

What they meant was it is going to be designed to keep three Amiga 1000's powered up. You know, for the good of mankind.

I know amiga ! (2, Funny)

Atreide (16473) | about 5 years ago | (#29733657)

Sure Amiga still rocks !

Who will build an Atari ST grid ?

Uh.. Roswell? (4, Funny)

JayPee (4090) | about 5 years ago | (#29733671)

Seriously, Roswell?

More likely this is going to be the supragrid where the huge alien craft will come to suck our energy away. (Think "V" The mini-series)

Re:Uh.. Roswell? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 5 years ago | (#29733797)

I don't mind as long as they pay. And alien overlords pay well, right?

shapes (2, Funny)

orgelspieler (865795) | about 5 years ago | (#29733683)

Let me get this straight: it will be a square, triangle, pipeline? Are you sure it's not a series of tubes?

Re:shapes (2, Informative)

Interoperable (1651953) | about 5 years ago | (#29733867)

Wikipedia has a good article [wikipedia.org] on the basic design.

Re:shapes (1)

physburn (1095481) | about 5 years ago | (#29733973)

Its a triangle of fat cables in piupes fill of Liquid Nitrogen.

Here's the Tres Amigas [amsc.com] design, via the AMSC site.

---

Super Conductor [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Your First Premis Is WRONG (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733697)

There is No America. There is Canada. There is the United States of America. There is Mexico.

Stupid Gringos.

Yours In Petrograd,
Hector Burrito

Re:Your First Premis Is WRONG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733849)

Wow - you actually get worked up over that? Amazing.

Re:Your First Premis Is WRONG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733963)

United States of Mexico, actually.

Re:Your First Premis Is WRONG (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 5 years ago | (#29733911)

I can see how that can be confusing seeing as how language is completely static and the majority of the world refers to both South and North America together when using the words "America" and "American".

Those damn United Statesmans, thinking they can refer to their own country however they please.

$1 per acre per year --- nice deal! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733701)

Public trust land managed in the public interest.

Oh ya.

blackouts (3, Informative)

Spazmania (174582) | about 5 years ago | (#29733725)

'Cause it's not enough to black out just the northeast during a cascade failure; we have to black out all of conus at the same time.

You're not safe just because your state is an energy exporter. Just like a sudden spike in demand, a sudden huge drop in demand forces generating plants into emergency-safe mode, shutting them down. You're safe only if your part of the grid neither imports nor exports more than a small percentage of the total power in play.

Re:blackouts (2, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 5 years ago | (#29734073)

Does that honestly seem to you like such a huge and difficult problem that couldn't possibly be safeguarded against or solved that we should forgo the ability to provide cheaper electricity across the country? I feel like there's probably been an Engineer or two that's looked at the whole changing demands on a power grid problem during the last half century or so.

Re:blackouts (1)

vlm (69642) | about 5 years ago | (#29734181)

You're safe only if your part of the grid neither imports nor exports more than a small percentage of the total power in play.

Luckily the interchange is only 5 GW... which only requires maybe one percent of the eastern and western plants to generate. TX on the other hand is probably screwed, that is probably like 5/6 their generating capacity (Don't really know, but how many plants can little ole TX have, anyway?)

I'm a... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29733811)

I can conduct 3 symphony orchestras at once.

I'm a super conductor.

A lot of power (5, Informative)

siliconwafer (446697) | about 5 years ago | (#29733831)

Each leg of the triangle can carry 5GW of electricity.

5GW is a lot of power; to put that into perspective, the entire state of New York uses about 30GW at peak load on a hot summer day; the great power of Niagara Falls gives us about 5GW (Canadian + US generators).

Re:A lot of power (2, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | about 5 years ago | (#29734157)

Yup - just think about what would happen if any part of this conduit warmed up - talk about a MASSIVE heat dump!

Or, for that matter think about what would happen if somebody took the cable and twisted it into a coil - now you suddenly have a HUGE electromagnet.

Re:A lot of power (1)

vlm (69642) | about 5 years ago | (#29734253)

Yup - just think about what would happen if any part of this conduit warmed up - talk about a MASSIVE heat dump!

Thats what FCL's are for

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fault_current_limiter [wikipedia.org]

Re:A lot of power (2, Informative)

Mousit (646085) | about 5 years ago | (#29734339)

It really depends on where you look, to be honest, and surprisingly the state of New York isn't necessarily all that huge as you might think. It's not even ranked second or third in energy usage.

To add to your perspective, the state of Texas produces and consumes--by a wide margin for both--far more electrity than any other state or territory in the United States. Full summer peaks can reach average state-wide usages of around 97GW.

That's especially impressive to me considering the Texas grid is almost isolated, so it can't easily call in outside power from other states like New York can.

Modify the phase variance (4, Informative)

insecuritiez (606865) | about 5 years ago | (#29733855)

The three power grids are out of phase with each other. Are they doing a AC->DC->AC conversion? It was my understanding that the biggest technical hurdle to connecting the grids was the difficult problem of shifting the phase of one grid to another.

Re:Modify the phase variance (1)

ckthorp (1255134) | about 5 years ago | (#29733991)

Yes, RTFA.

Re:Modify the phase variance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29734019)

The three power grids are out of phase with each other. Are they doing a AC->DC->AC conversion? It was my understanding that the biggest technical hurdle to connecting the grids was the difficult problem of shifting the phase of one grid to another.

Sure, they just have to redirect the power flow through the plasma conduits, and make sure that the phase discriminator is in focus before it hits the main deflector.

Re:Modify the phase variance (5, Informative)

physburn (1095481) | about 5 years ago | (#29734027)

Yes, Its AC->DC->AC. SuperConducting Cable always run DC. If you run alternating current through a superconductor, you'll get resistance (actually impendence) again.

---

SuperConductor [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:Modify the phase variance (1)

gregg (42218) | about 5 years ago | (#29734341)

So Edison and Kelvin were ahead of their time promoting DC over AC. By about 130 years...

Re:Modify the phase variance (1)

Telecommando (513768) | about 5 years ago | (#29734067)

Yes, the lines are DC with converters at each node that connects to the indivuidual grids.

Re:Modify the phase variance (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | about 5 years ago | (#29734087)

The three power grids are out of phase with each other. Are they doing a AC->DC->AC conversion?

Correct. From TFA:

multiple power transmission lines from each of the Interconnections will feed power into and out of the Tres Amigas SuperStation through multiple AC/DC converters, each connected by DC superconductor cables.

The superconducting material is required because they are using an AC->DC->AC conversion. It's very difficult to transmit that much power using direct current without a superconductor.

Re:Modify the phase variance (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 5 years ago | (#29734143)

The three power grids are out of phase with each other. Are they doing a AC->DC->AC conversion? It was my understanding that the biggest technical hurdle to connecting the grids was the difficult problem of shifting the phase of one grid to another.

Yes, they are. The superconducting cables are running high-voltage DC.

Uh... Do you know the way... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 5 years ago | (#29733945)

...to Santa Fe?

Amarillo doesn't even rhyme!

What about (Yellow Rose)? That would make sense.

Re:Uh... Do you know the way... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 5 years ago | (#29734101)

D'oh! A quick Google and I find that that song was San José. Weird. In my head, it's always been Santa Fé. Man, the 70's were a long time ago.

Superconductor (1)

Steve Baker (3504) | about 5 years ago | (#29733977)

Now we can build Gatling Lasers on our units, and we're one step closer to Fusion Power!

This is when... (1)

thered2001 (1257950) | about 5 years ago | (#29733981)

...we find out we aren't all exactly running 60 HZ after all.

What is the motivation for power companies? (1)

ssbssb (1537859) | about 5 years ago | (#29733983)

Won't increasing efficiency lower energy prices? Am I right in thinking that there really isn't any incentive for power companies to do this?

Re:What is the motivation for power companies? (2, Informative)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 5 years ago | (#29734127)

They charge the same and rake in more profit.

Re:What is the motivation for power companies? (4, Insightful)

KillerBob (217953) | about 5 years ago | (#29734131)

Won't increasing efficiency lower energy prices? Am I right in thinking that there really isn't any incentive for power companies to do this?

You're not right. From TFS/TFA, there's currently no link between the three different power grids. The incentive for the corporations to back this is the potential for them to save money (by buying power from other grids during peak times, rather than building more power plants to make up for the shortfall), and the potential to make money (by selling power to other grids during off-peak hours).

As an example, TX can sell power to the north during the winter to help cover the increased cost of heating, and they can buy power in the summer to help cover the cost of air conditioning. Also, the East can sell to the West when it's 1am on the East Coast (most people in bed, off-peak hours), but still 10pm in California. Likewise, California can sell to the east when it's 5am there (people are still asleep), but 8am in the east.

All in all, it should make a *huge* difference for their bottom lines, while also helping the environment by reducing the amount of power that we have to generate. :)

Re:What is the motivation for power companies? (1)

friedo (112163) | about 5 years ago | (#29734295)

There are individual bilateral HVDC links between each pair of grids. But this will be the first time all three will be tied together in a single system.

Re:What is the motivation for power companies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29734155)

The incentive is that they get a larger market to sell to. Currently, the best they can do is meet demand of their own region. Now, if they have extra capacity and another part of the grid lacks supply, they can make extra money.

Re:What is the motivation for power companies? (1)

localman57 (1340533) | about 5 years ago | (#29734231)

It depends. Enron managed to game the system by taking certain power plants off line for "maintenace" at inopportune times, causing the various grids they were payed to connect to have to trade more energy across their lines. This was made infamous in the "Grandma eating dogfood" recording between a couple of Enron energy traders.

Back to the Future (1)

Jedi Holocron (225191) | about 5 years ago | (#29734007)

Isn't think just one giant Flux Capacitor [wikipedia.org] ?

Where are the hoverboards?

Perhaps the energy can be harnessed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29734045)

Perhaps the high temperature given off by the superconductors can be harnessed to create more energy or heat homes.

Why 22 sq miles? (2, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | about 5 years ago | (#29734097)

The article mentions a triangle of 8.5Miles per side, but not being used to dealing with large amounts of power.. (pretty much anything over 120V is over my head).. why do the superconducting pipes have to be that long?

Wouldn't it be cheaper to have the connections closer? or at that level of power, could there really be arc's 5 miles long? (or are there other issues related to crazy sine wave stuff?)

And really, I hope someday they decide to build one somewhere else too, like Colorado, or even further north. Then at least there are multiple points of failure.. (and if anyone gave a crap about texas, they would be invited into one of the other grids already, but obviously they think they are special...)

Re:Why 22 sq miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29734323)

I agree with your implication- it seems like the interesting technology is in the conversion to DC, there is no explanation of why they need ANY length of superconducting material.

And this couldn't be done with copper because (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 5 years ago | (#29734125)

...

Just wondering why superconductors suddenly make this feasable. 20 square miles just doesn't resolve to a very big number when looking at the length of the wire.

Re:And this couldn't be done with copper because (1)

tg123 (1409503) | about 5 years ago | (#29734283)

...

Just wondering why superconductors suddenly make this feasable. 20 square miles just doesn't resolve to a very big number when looking at the length of the wire.

"The HTS cable system installed in LIPA’s power grid contains hair-thin, ribbon-shaped HTS wires that conduct 150 times the electricity of similar sized copper wires. This power density advantage enables transmission-voltage HTS cables to utilize far less wire and yet conduct up to five times more power – in a smaller right of way – than traditional copper-based cables."

quoted from this article

http://www.azom.com/news.asp?newsID=12710 [azom.com]

Re:And this couldn't be done with copper because (4, Informative)

localman57 (1340533) | about 5 years ago | (#29734393)

You need superconducters because of the amount of current that will be transported. The loss across the wire increases with the square of the current ( p = (v)i or p = (i/r)i ). That's not a big problem when you're running a vacuum cleaner (although the wire will ususally get warm). It's a huge problem when you're talking about moving thousands of amps. The longer the wire, the more losses there are. In fact, it's common for the main conductors coming out of power plants to be made of pure sodium metal submerged in oil, due to the fact that sodium has a very, very high conductance at normal temperatures.

That's why electric companies sink so much money into transformers. You step up the electricity to high voltage / low current for transmission, then back to low voltage / high current for consumption.

"Forward Looking Comment" (1)

adamruck (638131) | about 5 years ago | (#29734201)

Found this on the bottom of the article

Any statements in this release about future expectations, plans and prospects for the company, including our expectations regarding the future financial performance of the company and other statements containing the words "believes," "anticipates," "plans," "expects," "will" and similar expressions, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. There are a number of important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements. Such factors include: we have a history of operating losses, and we may incur losses in the future; a significant portion of our revenues are derived from a single customer, and a reduction in business with this customer could adversely affect our operating results; adverse changes in domestic and global economic conditions could adversely affect our operating results; changes in exchange rates could adversely affect our results from operations; our common stock may experience extreme market price and volume fluctuations, which may prevent our stockholders from selling our common stock at a profit and could lead to costly litigation against us that could divert our management’s attention; if we fail to implement our business strategy, our financial performance and our growth could be materially and adversely affected; we may not realize all of the sales expected from our backlog of orders and contracts; many of our revenue opportunities are dependent upon subcontractors and other business collaborators, and a reduction in orders stemming from these companies could adversely affect our operating results; our products face intense competition, which could limit our ability to acquire or retain customers; our success is dependent upon attracting and retaining qualified personnel and our inability to do so could significantly damage our business and prospects; and our international operations are subject to risks that we do not face in the U.S., which could have an adverse effect on our operating results. Reference is made to these and other factors discussed in the "Risk Factors" section of the company's most recent quarterly or annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition, any forward-looking statements included in this press release represent the company's views as of the date of this release. While the company anticipates that subsequent events and developments may cause the company's views to change, the company specifically disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing the company's views as of any date subsequent to the date this press release is issued.

Makes me wonder...

Re:"Forward Looking Comment" (1)

rdunnell (313839) | about 5 years ago | (#29734385)

That sort of disclosure is on almost every statement that is issued by companies that are regulated by the SEC or some other regulatory body. Go look at any company's annual report, quarterly SEC filings, etc. Even press releases might have that sort of language on it. You basically have to try to spell out everything that could possibly go wrong so that stupid investors who don't understand that every business carries potential risks don't sue you later.

Where? (4, Informative)

pgn674 (995941) | about 5 years ago | (#29734217)

For those who aren't sure where that triangle is, a map [google.com] .

isnt this going backwards? (1)

SolarStorm (991940) | about 5 years ago | (#29734329)

Isnt this going backwards with so much research being done to distributed renwable energy systems? We are creating a central point of failure or an alien magnetic launch pad. Think about wrapping those super conductors in a coil? I would rather see these dollars spent creating more solar/wind/wave/tide/thermal/etc farms in a distributed system where the brown outs are occuring. By creating these types of farms, the overall cost of creating more decreases as more companies are willing to research and manufacture the components because now there is a market. As a research project on super conducting it is probably a good project. And I admit my 5 min of research qualifies me only as highly informed, not an expert.

Regulation, not technology drives this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29734399)

The article does not make clear the regulatory status of this interconnect other than to say application has been made to the FERC (the US federal regulator of transmission). Historically, the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has scrupulously avoided interconnection with other electric grids specifically to avoid becoming subject to regulation by the FERC (interconnection outside of Texas ==> interstate commerce in electricity ==> federal regulation). Tres Amiga LLC appears to be trying to finesse this by making the inter-tie DC only and thus avoiding the AC synchronization of ERCOT with the rest of the world. The technology to interconnect ERCOT has existed for 50+ years; it is primarily the Texans who don't want the federales messin' with their 'lecticity that have prevented the ERCOT interconnection.

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