Transitioning To A Smarter Grid: American Superconductor

This listed company is developing products to transition our present grid to a more resilient paradigm

The present grid paradigm has reached its sundown — it’s time to start transitioning to a new, more efficient paradigm. Source: Alexander Popov via Unsplash

Executive Summary

  • Rooftop solar installations place an enormous strain on the 20th century grid — which was designed to operate essentially unidirectionally — by creating big swings in electricity supply and demand during the day.
  • To guard against cascading outages caused by local supply-demand imbalances, the grid’s transmission and distribution (T&D) system* was designed for compartmentalization.
  • Compartmentalization guards against outage risk, but means that power is not distributed as efficiently as it might be.
  • American Semiconductor is using its novel capability in the field of engineering high-temperature semiconducting (HTS) cables to distribute power more effectively where it is most needed; doing so, it is helping to create a more resilient, efficient grid.
The orange line in this diagram resembles, if you squint your eyes, a duck. The blue line represents total electrical demand throughout a single day; solar production (gray line) supplies a significant amount of electricity during the day. Source: Arnold Reinhold — Own work based on data from caiso.org, CC BY-SA 4.0
Daniel McGahn, CEO of AMSC. Source: AMSC.com
A D-VAR installation. These units smooth out the variations in energy generated by rooftop PV panels to make distribution networks more efficient and stable. Source: AMSC.com

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