The government sponsored National Oak Ridge Laboratory of the US has published research that estimates superconductivity will save the country some $18 billion annually following its full introduction into electric motors, transmission lines, transformers and the like. The report added that significant environmental benefits are to be expected from the introduction of the technology. Mainstream market penetration of high temperature superconducting (HTS) materials is expected within the decade with 50 per cent of the market for underground cables by 2013, a similar percentage of the transformer market by 2015 and 50 per cent of the generator market by 2021.

Bob Lawrence & Associates conducted the research under contract to Oak Ridge and identified a number of positive factors encouraging the introduction of superconducting materials, among them are the ageing transmission system in the US and increasingly strident demands for high quality, reliable power supplies.

American Superconductor recently completed the HTS wire needed for the world’s first HTS installed in a utility grid. More than 18 miles (29 km) of HTS wire were shipped to Pirelli Cables and Systems, which expects to complete manufacture by the year end. The cable will then be installed in the Detroit Edison Frisbie Station, located in downtown Detroit, where operation is scheduled to start during the second quarter of 2001. The project was partially funded by the Department of Energy.