Several emerging trends, including the rapid growth in renewable generation and greater emphasis on improving grid efficiency and resiliency, are leading to a critical need to modernize the way electricity is delivered from suppliers to consumers. Modernizing the grid's hardware and software could help reduce peak power demand, increase the use of renewable energy, save consumers money on their power bills, and reduce total energy consumption--among many other notable benefits.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing new, low-cost insulation for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electricity transmission cables. The current material used to insulate HVDC transmission cables is very expensive and can account for as much as 1/3 of the total cost of a high-voltage transmission system. GE is embedding nanomaterials into specialty rubber to create its insulation. Not only are these materials less expensive than those used in conventional HVDC insulation, but also they will help suppress excess charge accumulation. The excess charge left behind on a cable poses a major challenge for high-voltage insulation—if it is not kept to a low level, it could ultimately lead the insulation to fail. GE's low-cost insulation is compatible with existing U.S. cable manufacturing processes, further enhancing its cost effectiveness.
If successful, GE would help reduce the cost of high-voltage cable by up to 80%, which in turn would reduce the overall cost of electricity transmission.
A more efficient, reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions from failure, natural disasters, or attack.
Enabling increased use of wind and solar power would result in a substantial decrease in carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.—40% of which are produced by electricity generation.
A more efficient and reliable grid would help protect U.S. businesses from costly power outages and brownouts that stop automated equipment, bring down factories, and crash computers.