Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A new device to protect New York City’s electrical system

Zenergy Power has been contracted by The Consolidated Edison Company to build and test a smart grid device to improve the stability and reliability of New York City’s electrical system.

The equipment, known as a Fault Current Limiter (FCL), instantly detects and absorbs spikes in power that, left unmanaged, could damage electrical equipment or trigger power outages.

In practice, Zenergy’s FCL is electrically connected to the grid it protects. It allows normal current to pass through unimpeded but, when it senses a fault current, instantly counters the electrical flow. This reaction, created in part by the superconductor in the device, chokes off a potentially damaging electrical spike. Once the fault current subsides, the FCL again allows standard levels of current to flow, protecting the electrical system automatically without human intervention.

This approach has the advantage of being able to absorb long-duration faults or multiple faults occurring in succession.

Con Edison, a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, authorised a project to design, build and test a single-phase FCL of a type that would be applicable to a number of substations within the utility’s electrical system.

Zenergy expects to deliver the prototype by the end of August.

Fault current limiters will be an essential element of the smart grid to maintain reliability and improve its resilience and flexibility, said Pat Duggan, a Con Edison project manager and specialist in fault current limiters.

“This is especially important as the load grows, including the move to electricity as a preferred source for new uses such as plug-in hybrids,” added Duggan.

Tests that Zenergy conducts in its development of the FCL for Con Edison will ensure the device is able to protect equipment from the damaging effects of fault currents that occur on the utility’s 13.8 kilovolt (kV) “feeder system” -- an electrical distribution network that delivers power to customers. At the conclusion of testing, Zenergy expects to extend its designs to other FCLs that are customised for protecting Con Edison and other utilities’ equipment on higher voltage lines of up to 138kV.

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