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AMSC will help Chicago build an electricity grid that’s both smart and resilient

American Superconductor, a technology company based in Devens that makes components for wind energy and power grid companies, has been selected by a unit of the US Department of Homeland Security to help Greater Chicago upgrade its electric grid in ways that will make the grid more resilient and secure.

According to a Wednesday regulatory filing by American Superconductor, the contract could be worth about $60 million to American Superconductor over a four- to five-year period.

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The current design of the grid infrastructure in many US cities makes restoration of power after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane or a terrorist event “time-consuming, costly, and unpredictable,” the company said in a press release.

The plan is for American Superconductor to collaborate with ComEd, the electric utility that provides service to 3.8 million customers in Northern Illinois. The project calls for American Superconductor to deploy its high-temperature superconductor technology to build a superconducting cable system that will give Chicago a grid that is both smart and resilient.

A resilient electric grid is designed to be “a self-healing solution that provides resiliency in the event that portions of the grid are lost for any reason,” said the release, which added that the ComEd installation would be the first commercial application of this advanced technology in the United States.

In a statement, company president and chief executive Daniel P. McGahn noted that under the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, contract, “AMSC will initiate a similar deployment plan with at least two other US utilities.”

McGahn added: “Utilities around the world are investing tens of billions of dollars on smart grid technology designed in part to create a more redundant and resilient grid. We believe that the Resilient Electric Grid system, which is enabled by AMSC’s unique high temperature superconductor technology, has the potential to play a significant role in protecting the infrastructure assets so vital to our electrical systems. Together with the leadership from DHS and ComEd, we believe AMSC is now in a position to offer this system solution to cities in America and around the world.”

American Superconductor has been in the news of late. Last week, a federal grand jury indicted two golfing buddies on criminal charges of conspiracy and securities fraud involving the trading of American Superconductor stock. The US Securities and Exchange Commission also filed civil charges against the pair and five of their friends.

Prosecutors allege that the seven men — most of whom are competitive amateur golfers — made about $720,000 between 2009 and 2011 trading on illegally gained tips about upcoming earnings reports and pending business deals for American Superconductor.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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