Project Hydra aims for a more secure power grid

Published 21 May 2007

DHS funds an effort to develop and deploy a high temperature superconductor power grid technology

A nation’s power grid is vulnerable to attack and disruption at many points along the way from the power station to the end user. Now something is being done about it. Westborough, Massachusetts-based American Superconductor Corporation (NASDAQ: AMSC) has signed a contract with Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED) to develop and deploy a new high temperature superconductor (HTS) power grid technology in Con Edison’s power delivery network in New York City. DHS is expected to invest up to $25 million in the development of this technology to enable Secure Super Grids in the United States. Secure Super Grids use customized HTS wires, HTS power cables, and ancillary controls to deliver more power through the grid while also being able to suppress power surges that can disrupt service.

Jay Cohen, DHS under secretary for science and technology said:

The U.S. power grid is one of our most valuable assets, and we are taking the steps necessary — through the use of our most advanced technologies — to ensure its safety. As we saw with the August 2003 blackout and in incidents since, disruptions to the power grid have far-reaching effects and a tremendous economic impact. We have asked AMSC and Consolidated Edison to demonstrate superconductor solutions in New York City that will serve to keep our centers of commerce on line under all conditions — including grid events related to severe weather, accidents or terrorist attacks.

This endeavor has been code named Project Hydra by DHS. As was the case with the mythical Greek monster that grew back multiple heads when one was severed, multiple paths for electricity flow will be created in power grids to ensure system reliability if circuits were to be disrupted (you may view an animation here).

AMSC is the prime contractor for Project Hydra, and the company signed a letter contract worth $1.7 million with DHS on 18 May 2007. Work on the project has already commenced. Of the $1.7 million, DHS will fund approximately $1.1 million. AMSC and Con Edison signed a separate agreement whereby Con Edison will be a subcontractor to AMSC. Final contract terms and conditions are expected to be completed within 90 days. The total project cost is estimated to be $39.3 million. It is anticipated that DHS would fund up to $25 million of this total.

The deployment of a commercial high-capacity, surge-suppressing HTS cable system in New York City is projected for completion in three years, concurrent with Con Edison’s System of the Future grid enhancement plans. The project builds on the foundation in HTS technology developed over the past two decades by U.S. private industry and by the Department of Energy (DOE), which today is funding the demonstration of HTS power cables in three U.S. power grids. The DOE also funded the demonstration of a HTS Triax cable system developed jointly by Southwire Company and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.