Superconductor electricity pipelines comprise transmission-level direct current (DC) superconductor power cables powered by AMSC high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire and high-powered voltage-source AC/DC power converters.

The Tres Amigas Project in New Mexico, USA, focuses on uniting America’s three power grids for the first time to enable faster adoption of renewable energy and increase the reliability of the US grid, AMSC says.

The three US power grids – or interconnections – are known as the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and the Texas Interconnection (also known as the Eastern Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT). They primarily use alternating current (AC) power transmission lines, but power transfer between any two of the interconnections can only be accomplished through special power electronic conversion stations.

Triangular electricity pathway

The Tres Amigas renewable energy market hub will be a triangular electricity pathway of superconductor electricity pipelines capable of transferring and balancing many gigawatts of renewable power between the three interconnections.

Multiple power transmission lines from each of the interconnections will feed power into and out of the Tres Amigas SuperStation through multiple AC/DC converters, each connected by DC superconductor cables.

Tres Amigas, which will be a balancing authority, could help ensure the efficient and reliable flow of power from multiple renewable generation sources in all three power grids to customers across a wide area of the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Renewable energy market hub

“To truly open up the market for electricity generated from renewable sources of energy, we must enhance transmission in the United States,” says Phil Harris, chief executive officer of Tres Amigas, LLC, originally developed the concept for the Tres Amigas SuperStation.

“Tres Amigas will serve as a renewable energy market hub by connecting all three of America’s power grids to enable the transfer of green power from region to region. The system will also add a new dimension of reliability and security for US power supplies.”

The Tres Amigas SuperStation will act as a power market hub, enabling the buying and selling of electricity between the nation’s three interconnections, which is not possible today, AMSC says.

Wind, solar, hydro and geothermal – renewable energy sources that do not currently have access to transmission lines and/or customers – will be able to tap into multiple markets through the Tres Amigas SuperStation.

Following the project’s approval, AMSC is expected to provide transmission planning services, superconductor wire and the superconductor cable system for the project. AMSC intends to partner with superconductor power cable and system component companies to manufacture the cable system to AMSC’s specification.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to help unify the United States power grid and achieve the nation’s renewable energy goals,” said Greg Yurek, founder and CEO of American Superconductor. “The time has come to utilise the latest technologies to not only balance renewable energy flows to get more clean electricity to customers, but also to increase the reliability and security of our power grids. Tres Amigas will help achieve these important goals.”

AMSC has acquired a minority equity interest in Tres Amigas, LLC for US$1.75 million in cash and AMSC stock.