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More Heat, Less Sag

Cables may help ease the power squeeze by delivering more current along the same rights of way

5 min read

You might think of it as putting more backbone into a power line. At least a couple of companies are doing it—they’ve developed high-voltage power cables that don’t sag nearly as much as the lines they would replace. No, the power utilities are not replacing the aluminum that conducts the current; they’re replacing the steel core that gives the cable its strength. The reason: as steel heats because of the current in the aluminum, it sags a lot, sometimes so much that a power line can touch a tree limb and trigger a blackout.

A handful of utility companies are testing the new high-voltage cables in the United States. And one cable—from Composite Technology Corp. (CTC), of Irvine, Calif.—will be installed beginning this summer on a new 60-kilometer-long power line in China’s Fujian province.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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