Brussels, 24 Jul 2003
Deploying high-temperature superconductor (HTS)-based devices in the EU's electric power grid could help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 52 million tonnes, participants in a recent Finnish study have claimed.
HTS devices are those that are capable of carrying an electricity current without resistance, something which causes energy to be wasted as excess heat. While other superconductivity devices need to maintain low temperatures in order to be successfully operational, HTS devices can work at much higher temperatures; This rules out additional energy production, thus resulting in fewer green house gas emissions.
Although HTS devices have already been developed for the computer technologies and car engine industries, Risto Mikkonen, the scientist who led the study, and his colleagues at the superconductivity unit of Tampere University in Finland, decided to explore the commercial potential of these materials for reducing green house gases in energy production.
Energy production is the biggest source of green house gas emissions. Under the Kyoto agreement, the EU has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eight per cent during the first commitment period of 2008 to 2012.
Using the Finnish electricity grid as a model, the team of experts assessed what would happen if all the existing conventional transformers, generators and synchronous motors in Finland were replaced by HTS devices, taking into consideration the production and consumption of electricity.
Taking the minimum power needed for the devices to become commercially viable, the study found in the Finnish electric power grid alone, emissions could be reduced by 0.8 to 1.55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which is between one and two per cent of greenhouse gas emissions produced by Finland.
By expanding the results to the whole of the EU, the study found that CO2 emissions could be reduced by to 53 million tonnes, which is 33 to 65 per cent of the EU's Kyoto commitment.
Based on a market penetration model, Dr Mikkonen and his team have calculated that it would take at least 20 years to achieve this reduction, an issue, they say, which should not deter the deployment of such materials. 'Our results will interest device manufacturers who are constantly seeking new developments in the electric power sector. Although it will take some time to introduce this new technology, the environmental benefits could accelerate its commercialisation,' said Dr Mikkonen.