DHS, DOE Join ComEd to Spotlight Grid Enhancing Technology
November 2021

(Photo credit: ComEd. The AMSC REG system, pictured above, injects liquid nitrogen into the high temperature superconductor wire assembly to keep it cold enough to achieve superconductivity, which eliminates electrical resistance and energy loss. ComEd is the first electric company in the nation to permanently install the AMSC REG system into the grid.)

Protecting the nation’s energy grid and providing reliable electricity to customers are top priorities for EEI’s member companies. As physical and cyber threats to the grid increase, electric companies are taking action and are working with their federal partners to enhance the grid’s resiliency and reliability. 

Recently, Chicago-based ComEd was joined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to spotlight new technology that will enhance energy grid reliability for ComEd customers and reduce the impact of cyber and physical security threats, as well as more frequent and severe storms. 

Developed by the American Superconductor Company (AMSC) and funded in part by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, the Resilient Electric Grid (REG) system uses a high-temperature superconductor wire that can carry 200 times the voltage of standard copper wire. This requires a refrigeration process that cools liquid nitrogen to minus 337 degrees Fahrenheit. The system injects the liquid nitrogen into the wire assembly to keep it cold enough to achieve superconductivity, which eliminates electrical resistance and energy loss. 

ComEd is the first electric company in the nation to permanently install this system into the energy grid. The company’s president and chief operations officer, Terence R. Donnelly, said ComEd is grateful for the investment by DHS. 

"ComEd is providing our customers record levels of reliability, but we need to embrace innovation to continue to enhance the power grid and deliver the results families and businesses depend on," he said.

Alexander Joves, regional director of the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said the unveiling of AMSC’s REG system installed at a ComEd substation highlighted how investments in science and technology can pave the way for new capabilities and new innovation. 

"We all know how critical the grid is to our everyday life, our economy, our national security, and our well-being. Strengthening the security and resilience of critical infrastructure is a major mission of DHS," he said. 

ComEd will test and monitor the superconductor-based system over the coming year and will evaluate whether to connect it to multiple substations, which would create a back-up system to keep power flowing in the event of a major energy grid interruption. 

Daniel P. McGahn, chairman, president and CEO, AMSC, believes the REG system enables electric companies to think about the grid more like other networked infrastructure. 

"Traditional grid design has called for isolating substations, which enables electric companies to protect their systems, but that prevents them from being able to reroute power from one substation to another," he said. "The REG system allows for substations to be interconnected, creating the flexibility to provide a pathway to move power from one substation to another.”