American Superconductor's SuperVAR synchronous condenser has been named this year's "Most Promising Pre-commercial Technology" at the 5th Annual Platts Global Energy Awards ceremony. The Global Energy Awards are presented by Platts and sponsored by BusinessWeek. Both Platts and BusinessWeek are divisions of The McGraw-Hill Companies.
"The 2003 blackouts in North America and Europe have made transmission grid stability everyone's concern," said Greg Yurek, chief executive of American Superconductor. "Since we shipped the first SuperVAR machine to the Tennessee Valley Authority in November of this year, we have seen significant interest from independent system operators and utilities in using SuperVAR synchronous condensers as a robust new solution to help prevent blackouts by dynamically stabilizing grid voltage. The product of our extensive engineering and transmission system expertise, SuperVAR synchronous condensers use high temperature superconductor technology to transform a twentieth century transmission device into a 21st-century solution with the potential to ensure the world more reliable electricity service."
Grid Stability, Reactive Power, and SuperVAR Synchronous Condensers
As the demand for power increases and more electricity is transmitted over the grid, power lines become stressed, which can result in voltage instability and ultimately, power outages. The key to preventing major outages, protecting service quality and maximizing transmission capacity is ensuring that grid voltage is properly regulated. Voltage is the pressure that drives electrical current through power lines. Utilities keep voltage levels stable and ensure a reliable flow of electricity by maintaining a balance of real power (Watts) and reactive power (VARs) on their transmission grids. Reactive power, which is measured in VARs (volt-ampere-reactive), is the component of electricity that maintains the proper level of voltage in transmission lines to drive "real power," which is measured in Watts, through the power lines to customers. A recent letter issued by the North American Electricity Reliability Council (NERC) based on an analysis of the August 2003 blackout cited the need to ensure appropriate levels of reactive power as the highest priority for transmission owners and operators.
SuperVAR synchronous condensers serve as reactive power "shock absorbers" for the grid, dynamically generating or absorbing reactive power (VARs), depending on the voltage level of the transmission system. SuperVAR machines also respond instantly to protect grids and electricity customers against sudden voltage fluctuations (known in the power industry as "voltage transients"), which can be caused by lightning storms, short circuits caused by tree branches momentarily touching lines, animals contacting transmission elements, and other sources. AMSC's SuperVAR machines and D-VAR systems instantly stabilize voltage and provide utilities new, cost-effective means to actively increase the reliability and maximize the capacity of transmission grids.
The first SuperVAR synchronous condenser was delivered in November 2003 to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
From a broad list of nominees, finalists for the Platts Global Energy Awards are selected in each category based on their ability to meet the criteria for each award. Each year, an international panel of judges composed of the energy industry's elite, including top corporate executives, leading academics, respected commentators, senior analysts and knowledgeable editors, convene in London to cast their votes. Preeminent in their fields, these individuals are able to evaluate each entry within its category and also within the context of the energy industry as a whole. Now in its 5th year, the Platts Global Energy Awards has become the most prestigious awards program in the industry.
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American Superconductor (now AMSC) supplies dynamic reactive power grid stabilization products and the world's principal vendor of high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire and large rotating superconductor machinery.