Chicago planning to lay superconducting cable to prevent power outages in the Loop

July 17, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: ComEd

Huge electricity provider Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) has announced that it plans to lay superconducting cables alongside existing copper cables in parts of downtown Chicago to prevent outages in and around the Loop. The effort is receiving partial financial support from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Superconducting cables are those that are able to carry more electricity than standard cables—in this case, ten times as much. The plan is to lay such cables next to existing that exist between substations and customers—thus new trenches or underground work won't be needed. Superconducting cables, the thinking goes would allow for sending more power from substations that aren't impacted during an outage, taking over for those that are—the result would be a portion of the city protected against major . The cables are to be supplied by American Superconductor, which has announced that the company is also in talks with other large metro area suppliers to provide cable for them as well.

The plan to provide better protection against power outages has been long in the making, instances in the past have shown how vulnerable large cities are to such outages—hurricane Sandy being the most recent. DHS has been working with city administrators and power company executives to preempt such outages which can cost businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue. There is also the safety factor—large cities without power are dark and dangerous places. It's not just adverse weather that has DHS worried either, a terrorist attack could possibly cause the same problems.

Companies such as American Superconductor create so-named superconducting cables by using special metal alloys for the inside—in this case it's an alloy the company calls Amperium—a brass laminated wire. It allows for conducting up to 200 times more electricity than copper wire. They cover the wire with special materials to help prevent loss of power during transmission. Such cables cost a lot more than copper wire cables of course, which is why they aren't used in all underground applications. DHS has pledged $60 million for the Chicago project, though city planners expect the overall cost to be much higher than that.

Explore further: Taking the juice for granted: Powering American cities in the new century

More information: Press release:

via Chicago Tribune

Related Stories

World's longest superconductor cable

January 19, 2012

The "AmpaCity" project has been kicked off: The RWE Group and its partners are just about to replace a 1-kilometre-long high-voltage cable connecting two transformer stations in the Ruhr city of Essen with a state-of-the-art ...

Superconducting cables for electricity grids

July 16, 2012

Power grids around the world are reaching their limits at the same time that electricity demand is growing. European researchers developed and tested one of the first superconductor-based cables to address the issue.

CERN: World-record current in a superconductor

April 15, 2014

In the framework of the High-Luminosity LHC project, experts from the CERN Superconductors team recently obtained a world-record current of 20 kA at 24 K in an electrical transmission line consisting of two 20-metre long ...

Recommended for you

Magnetic fields provide a new way to communicate wirelessly

September 1, 2015

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body. The new technology could offer a lower power ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 17, 2014
That last paragraph doesn't sound right. There's no power loss in transmission if it is superconducting. And if I had to guess what kind of special support the wire would need, I'd say coolant tubing, since the superconductor has to be kept at around -200 degrees.
1.4 / 5 (5) Jul 17, 2014
Right, there's no transmitted power lost, but the cooling system is a total loss of efficiency and power. Imagine the legions of Department of Homeland Severity Blueshirts that will be needed to keep the swarming AlQaeda away. Like honey to Shiite flies.
5 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2014
And if I had to guess what kind of special support the wire would need, I'd say coolant tubing, since the superconductor has to be kept at around -200 degrees
Well I actually wanted to know so I looked it up. This is after all that Internet.

"Amperium wire is made with the yttrium-barium-copper-oxide (YBCO) high temperature superconductor. The YBCO ceramic film is deposited on an oxide-buffered nickel-tungsten (Ni-W) alloy substrate that is laminated and soldered between two metal strips... The superconducting transition temperature (TC) of YBCO in zero magnetic field is about 90 K. Its critical current (IC ) has a significant temperature dependence and improves substantially as the operating temperature is reduced below 90 K."

5 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2014
Right, there's no transmitted power lost
-except that in reality there IS power lost.

"Lower impedance for improved power flow... HTS cables have lower impedances than conventional cables. This significantly increases the distance they carry power before requiring reactive compensation. This lower impedance also positively affects power flow and reduces line losses, especially in networked applications."

Hint: when you see something in a press release written by experts FOR experts that you dont understand, it pays to look it up before commenting.
not rated yet Jul 19, 2014
There is no need for superconducting cables in order to prevent outages. What is needed is redundant cables.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.