Press Item ● Energy and the Environmentfacebooktwitterbirdemail
For Immediate Release: 
May 12, 2009
Contact Info: 
Katherine Ling, E&E reporter

Environment & Energy Daily

As the United States looks to expand the electric grid to reach renewable energy generation and cut greenhouse gas emissions, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) wants to ensure the transmission cables themselves more efficient and "smart."

Hoyer will introduce two bills today that aim to increase the efficiency and reliability of the nation's electric grid by looking at the transmission cables themselves. "The high capacity transmission lines which are subject to be buried ... strikes me as important as we are looking at substantial expansion of the grid. Not only expansion but bringing the grid technologically up to date," Hoyer told E&E.

Traditional power lines lose about 7 to 10 percent of electricity in transport. Superconducting or advanced electric cables only lose about 3 percent by chilling the wires to about minus-320 degrees Fahrenheit using liquid nitrogen. The lines also have a smaller "physical" footprint and can be buried underground. But the cables are considerably more expensive to install.

Hoyer's bill would allow the Energy Department to grant the $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy and transmission provided in the economic stimulus bill, as well as the billions of dollars from the original loan guarantee program, to fund the expansion of advanced electrical cable or transmission projects that use it, according to a summary provided by Hoyer's office. It would also create a $100 million grant program that would cover 50 percent of the planning costs for superconducting or advanced cable transmission projects.

A second bill by Hoyer would focus on tax incentives, including accelerated depreciation from 20 years to five years for the use of the cable and an investment credit for the cable and related infrastructure depending on the length of the power line. Lines only qualify if they "reliably" transmit at least 5 gigawatts of electricity for at least 300 miles, have a maximum of 3 percent power loss through transport and do not create an electromagnetic field, the summary said.

Hoyer said he hopes House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) would consider the bills "as an alternative way to encourage one area of the energy puzzle" as part of the comprehensive climate and energy bill.

There are currently three commercial applications of superconductor transmission lines: one operated by National Grid at Albany, N.Y.; a second by American Electric Power Co. in Columbus, Ohio; and the third -- and largest -- by the Long Island Power Authority on Long Island, N.Y.

There are only a few companies in the superconductor cable industry in the United States including Massachusetts-based American Superconductor Corp. and Georgia-based Southwire Co.