Superconducting Electric Power Applications

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The application of superconductors to electric power systems has been actively pursued over the past 30 years. Following the realization of high-field, high-durrent superconductors in 1961, researchers applied these type II materials, such as Nb-Ti and Nb3-Sn, to laboratory magnets, followed by generators, motors, and transmission cables. Successful prototypes for the latter were constructed andtested by the mid-1980s. It is fair to assume that widespread utility acceptance of these low-temperature superconducting (LTS) power applications was compromised by the necessity for liquid helium cooling. The discovery of the high-temperature superconductors (HTS) in 1986, which offered the prospect for liquid nitrogen cooling, provided renewed interest and impetus and spurred the developmentof HTS power components. The expectations for HTS power components are, in fact, near realization, as a result of the rapid worldwide progress in HTS wire and tape development. This paper will review the history and present status of superconducting power-system-related applications. The major problems facing this technology and the prospects for commercialization and eventual integration intothe utility sector will be discussed. General acceptance for superconducting power equipment by the electric utilities and other end-users will ultimately be based on the respective system performance, efficiency, reliability and maintenance, operational lifetime, and installed cost compared to conventional technologies.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)883-898
Number of pages16
JournalAdvances in Cryogenic Engineering
StatePublished - 1996

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-413-20282


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