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Making Electricity Turn On A Dime

Developments to Watch


AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER Co. needs more juice in eastern Kentucky to meet the needs of industry and coal mining. To supply electricity at the least cost and with the least disruption to power transmission in surrounding areas, the utility is constructing a state-of-the-art power-control system called the Unified Power Flow Controller.

The UPFC is the first system capable of simultaneously controlling all the major characteristics that determine power flow over transmission lines. That enables the utility to control power flows instantaneously and precisely. One big advantage is that American Electric Power will be able to build a cheaper, lower-voltage transmission line to the region, since the company won't need a huge safety margin to guard against unpredictable voltage fluctuations.

The power-flow system was developed by Westinghouse Electric Corp. and the Electric Power Research Institute. Such systems will become more important as deregulation results in more swapping of power. The solid-state systems also take up less room than their mechanical predecessors, which can be as big as football fields. AEP's facility is 100 feet by 150 feet--including a spectator's gallery.EDITED BY PETER COY

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