Since we issued dire warnings about the viability of New York City's power grid during the coming summer months in our June issue (Don't Panic, But the Grid's Going Down), we learned this week that the Department of Homeland Security and Consolidated Edison are testing a potential solution. The DHS project will invest $39.3 million over the next four years in new superconductor cables that are designed to prevent blackouts caused by power surges.
"This is about Wall Street, this is about making the electric grid for the financial capital of the world ... more defensible against potential problems," stated Jay M. Cohen, undersecretary for science and technology at DHS.Last week the DHS signed a $1.7 million contract with American Superconductor Corp. to make high temperature cables that will be used by Con Ed, New York's power utility.
The DHS calls the system "Project Hydra" after the nine-headed monster in Greek myths that was hard to kill because whenever one head was cut off it would grow new ones. In this case, if one power station is knocked out through a natural disaster or terrorism, another should be able to quickly take over. In the pilot project, two Manhattan power substations will be set up to back each other up. If the pilot is successful, DHS and Con Ed will extend the superconductor cables to other parts of New York and other metro areas.
The project is also part of Con Ed's $10 billion investment in technology instructure over the next five years. The power company has asked state regulators for a rate increase that would raise the average customer's electricity bill by 11.6% starting next April.
Newsday wrote an interesting, detailed story on the project.