One can dream about nuclear power or a hydrogen economy, but the best way to deal with a shortage of energy is to eliminate waste. Seven to ten percent of electricity is wasted through transmission losses, and the North American transmission infrastructure is a creaky, leaky mess. But it is almost impossible to get approval for new transmission lines; between aesthetics and EMF, nobody wants them in their backyard.
Superconducting cables to the rescue: they lose almost no electricity, radiate almost no EMF and can be discreetly buried. "This will be a way to move massive amount of power without disturbing the surrounding environment," said Greg Yurek, chief executive officer of American Superconductor, in an interview. "It's like putting an energy superhighway in the middle of a city."
The Long Island Power Authority just opened a half-mile long test project.It uses a High Temperature Superconductor (HTS) made by American Superconductor that is capable of carrying 574 megawatts of power, enough to power 300,000 homes. The three cables shown entering the ground in the picture above can carry as much power as all of the overhead lines on the far left.
the cable appears to be a pipe of liquid nitrogen with superconductor wrapped around it. See animation here
"High temperature" is a relative term when it comes to superconductors; these are cooled by liquid nitrogen. However, that is positively toasty compared to liquid helium, at 77 degrees Kelvin or -321 Farenheit instead of just above 1 degree Kelvin.
American Superconductor says that their new designs could reduce costs to one fifth of the current cost. It is a safer, more secure distribution system that delivers more power than a fleet of new nukes, but I guess a buried pipe isn't sexy enough to get any attention.
::Press Release from American Superconductor via ::Wall Street Journal