Magnetic Amplifier for Power Flow Control

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Magnetic Amplifier for Power Flow Control
Graphic of ORNL's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,000,000
Location: 
Oak Ridge, TN
Project Term: 
02/24/2012 to 06/30/2014
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
The U.S. electric grid is outdated and inefficient. There is 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: 
ORNL is developing an electromagnet-based, amplifier-like device that will allow for complete control over the flow of power within the electric grid. To date, complete control of power flow within the grid has been prohibitively expensive. ORNL's controller could provide a reliable, cost-effective solution to this problem. The team is combining two types of pre-existing technologies to assist in flow control, culminating in a prototype iron-based magnetic amplifier. Ordinarily, such a device would require expensive superconductive wire, but the magnetic iron core of ORNL's device could serve as a low-cost alternative that is equally adept at regulating power flow.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, ORNL's magnetic amplifier could offer low-cost regulation of power flow within the electric grid. Complete control over power flow would reduce wasted energy, save consumers money, and balance the supply and demand for energy.
Security: 
A more efficient, reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions from failure, natural disasters, or attack.
Environment: 
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.
Economy: 
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.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Timothy Heidel
Project Contact: 
Dr. Aleksandar Dimitrovski
Partners
University of Tennessee-Knoxville
SPX Transformer Solutions (Waukesha Electric Systems)