Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES)


Funded by:
Image Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

Overview | SMES Project

Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES) is a novel technology that stores electricity from the grid within the magnetic field of a coil comprised of superconducting wire with near-zero loss of energy.

SMES is a grid-enabling device that stores and discharges large quantities of power almost instantaneously. The system is capable of releasing high levels of power within a fraction of a cycle to replace a sudden loss or dip in line power. Strategic injection of brief bursts of power can play a crucial role in maintaining grid reliability especially with today’s increasingly congested power lines and the high penetration of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

A typical SMES consists of two parts – cryogenically cooled superconducting coil and power conditioning system – which are motionless and result in higher reliability than many other power storage devices. Ideally, once the superconducting coil is charged, the current will not decay and the magnetic energy can be stored indefinitely.

Benefits of SMES
  • Improves power quality for critical loads and provides carryover energy during momentary voltage sags and power outages
  • Improves load leveling between renewable energy sources (wind, solar) and the transmission and distribution network
  • Environmentally beneficial as compared to batteries; superconductivity does not rely on a chemical reaction and no toxins are produced in the process
  • Enhances transmission line capacity and performance – SMES features a high dynamic range, an almost infinite cycling capability, and an energy recovery rate close to 100%
  • Ultra-high field operation enables long-term storage SMES systems in a compact device with cost advantages in material and system costs

  • Modular units can address both long term (hours) and short term (seconds) storage requirements to help load leveling on the grid being fed by variable renewable sources such as solar and wind. Exceeding roundtrip efficiency requirements at 85%, SMES can have both energy storage and dynamic compensation capabilities thanks to the nearly instantaneous dynamic response of the superconducting coil.

2010 Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES) Project
SuperPower Inc., in partnership with ABB Inc., Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and the Texas Center for Superconductivity (TcSUH) at the University of Houston are developing and will build an advanced SMES device. This project is funded in part by an award from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Program Duration: 36 Months (2011-2013)

  • ABB Inc. – project lead, grid-interface power converter, system integration and lab demonstration
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) – SMES magnet design, construction, protection, and test; superconducting joints and switches
  • SuperPower Inc. – 2G HTS wire, assist BNL with coil development
  • University of Houston, TcSUH – 2G HTS manufacturing improvements for wire cost reductions

  • $5.25M overall cost
  • $4.2M from Department of Energy’s ARPA-E

SMES Demonstrator specifications:
  • 20 kW ultra-high field (UHF) SMES system with a capacity up to 2.5 MJ
  • Field of up to 25 T at 4.2K
  • Capable of flexible and direct deployment in medium voltage distribution networks at 15-36 kV
  • 2G HTS wire with high critical currents

...  the mark of excellence

About ARPA-E:

ARPA-E is modeled after the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Agency within DOD, and provides R&D funding for transformational new energy technologies and systems
  • ARPA-E Objectives:
    • bring freshness, excitement, and sense of mission to energy research to attract best and brightest minds in the US
    • focus on creative “out-of-the-box” transformational energy research that industry by itself cannot or will not support due to high risk, but where success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation
    • create a new tool to bridge the gap between basic energy research and development/industrial innovation
  • Funding is through the ARPA-E GRIDS Program (Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage)

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