ABB delivers the worlds first superconducting device for commercial use by an electrical utility

High-temperature superconducting Fault Current Limiter installed in Swiss power plant reduces costs and enhances reliability and safety

Zurich, Switzerland, November 21, 1996 - ABB, the International electrical engineering company, today announced the successful installation in a Swiss hydro power plant of the world's first commercially operational high-temperature superconducting device for electrical utility service. The so-called fault current limiter, designed to protect power system equipment and personnel from the effects of short-circuit electrical faults, will undergo long-term performance monitoring under actual operating conditions beginning today. With a rating of 1 megavolt-ampere (MVA) at a system voltage of 10.5 kilovolts, it is also the most powerful device of its kind in the world.

The current limiter, developed in ABB's Corporate Research Laboratories, was installed in the Kraftwerk am Loentsch hydro-electric power plant, near Glarus in central Switzerland. The plant belongs to the Nordostschweizerische Kraftwerke AG (NOK) electrical utility. Financial support for the commercial development and testing of the device was provided by the Swiss Utilities Study Fund (PSEL), with practical assistance provided by NOK.

The ABB current limiter takes advantage of a superconductor's unique ability to transmit electricity with no resistance when cooled below a certain temperature and when the electrical current is below a certain threshhold level. (This so-called high-temperature superconductor is cooled to a temperature of 77 degrees Kelvin, which distinguishes it from earlier low-temperature superconductors which have to be cooled to around 4 degrees Kelvin, close to absolute zero). When a short-circuit occurs, the electrical current in the system immediately rises above the critical value, which effectively shuts off the current limiter's superconductivity. The resistance of the current limiter then instantly increases and dampens the current surge caused by the short circuit. The installation of such devices reduces the damage caused by electrical faults, shortens repair time, and provides utility personnel with greater security. The result for electrical utilities is greater power supply reliability and lower operating cos
ts.

ABB employs approximately 1,000 scientists and technicians in 8 corporate research centres in Europe and America. A further 17,000 engineers spread across ABB's global business areas are also engaged in research and development. In 1995 ABB spent US$ 2.6 billion on R&D, approximately 8 percent of its total revenues. The ABB Group employs approximately 217,000 people with orders in 1995 of over US$ 36 billion. (End)

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    • Mr. John Fox
      ABB Corporate Communications, Zurich
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