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Participation in the Albany Project
In the United States, a technology superpower at the cutting edge of high-tech, a major power failure occurred in California in January 2001, followed by the massive Northeast Blackout of August 14, 2003.
"3-in-one (three-cores-in-one-cryostat type)" superconducting cable

These power failures are not isolated cases. Numerous power supply-related problems frequently occur in the United States, including damages to power lines and fires in underground cables and power plants. Power failures, which rarely occur in other developed countries such as Japan, occur in the United States on almost a daily basis. This is presumably because in the United States, which has never been exposed to war devastation, and with delayed facility renewal due to restrained investment following the power market liberalization, many outdated power transmission grids continue in use.

To rectify this situation, the United States has adopted an energy policy that includes a plan, currently under consideration, to cover the entire nation, by 2030, with a network of powerful superconducting cables for power transmission and distribution. It was just before the Blackout of August 14, 2003 that the Sumitomo Electric Industries (SEI) Group, drawing on its experience of demonstrating superconducting cables in Japan, decided to participate in superconducting cable projects in the United States. At about the same time, the SEI Group completed its proprietary "CT-OP (Controlled-Over-Pressure)" pressurized sintering process, which made it possible to manufacture long, bismuth-based superconducting wire whose performance is presently considered the best in the world. Armed with such Japanese-made technology * , the SEI Group has joined one of the projects comprising the US energy strategies: the Albany Project.

The Albany Project, a joint international project involving American, British and Japanese partners, is financed by the American federal government and the State of New York. SuperPower Inc. of the United States serves as the project manager, with the SEI Group in charge of manufacturing and installing a full superconducting cable system containing bismuth-based superconducting wires, terminations and joint. The cryogenic system required for maintaining a superconducting state is provided by the BOC Group (of the United Kingdom), which owns a US-wide network of remote monitoring systems for industrial gas plants. In the Albany Project, actual power transmission is tested using superconducting cables installed on the existing power grid of Niagara Mohawk (presently National Grid), a New York State-based power utility company. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan says that this is the first instance of Japanese company participation in a US federal government-funded project.

High-temperature superconducting cables crossed the Pacific Ocean

The Albany Project site is in Albany, the state capital of New York. In this project, a total of 350 meters of superconducting cable was installed in a section of the 3.2-km (2 miles) route between two substations along the Hudson River. The superconducting cables, manufactured from a total of 70 kilometers of "DI-BSCCO (Dynamically Innovative BSCCO)" bismuth-based superconducting wire manufactured by the SEI Group's proprietary CT-OP process, departed the Port of Kobe in August 2005, crossed the Pacific Ocean, passed through the Panama Canal and arrived at Albany in September of the same year. This was the first time in the world that superconducting cables crossed the Pacific.

Albany : A superconducting cable system was installed in a 350-meter section of 3.2-km (2 miles) route between two substations along the Hudson River
High-temperature superconducting cables crossed the Pacific
Superconducting cable At the Port of Kobe Passing Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal
Cable installation work begins Landing in the United States Passing Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal

Installation of the superconducting cable system then began, but had to be suspended during construction of the underground cable conduit due to an environmental problem in this locale, where the temperature dropped to -20ºC. Installation was eventually resumed and completed by late spring, including the terminations (where the superconducting portion, registering about -200ºC, is brought back to room temperature) and the joint for joining two superconducting power cables, whose performance would be demonstrated for the first time in the world.

Albany Project cable system allows light to stay on

Superconducting cable joint

Following superconducting cable installation, testing of cryogenic equipment and electric systems and confirmation of superconducting performance, on July 20 at 9:00 p.m. local time the superconducting cable was connected to a practically operating (underground) power transmission grid for the first time in the world. It was a historically charged day for the United States, being exactly 37 years from the day man walked on the moon for the first time and exactly 30 years from the day Viking I landed on Mars.

"3-in-One" Termination

On August 2, a grand ceremony was held to celebrate completion of the installation, with Governor George Pataki and Assemblyman Ronald Canestrari of the State of New York as honorable guests. Sumitomo Electric President and CEO Masayoshi Matsumoto also attended. At the ceremony, Governor Pataki delivered a speech praising the SEI Group's technological expertise and leadership. He said that from this day incidents like the recent blackout in Queens, which originated in the power distribution system, one of whose trunk cables melted down due to massive power transmission, would never happen again because a superconducting cable system is being used as an operating power line for the first time in the world, here in Albany. The Governor added that New York State should be proud of this unprecedented event, realized thanks to a dramatic technological breakthrough, which was not simply new technology, and that this new technological expertise was necessary so that there would always be light, under any circumstances. The Governor also expressed his hope that the technology adopted in Albany would be improved and extended to the rest of New York State, the whole of the United States and the rest of the world. So far, the superconducting cable system of the Albany Project has been functioning without a human operator and without problems.

Governor Pataki Governor Pataki and Masayoshi Matsumoto, Sumitomo Electric President and CEO

*

Bismuth-based superconductors were discovered by Dr. Hiroshi Maeda of the National Research Institute for Metals (present National Institute for Materials Science, Japan).

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