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I'll start with your conclusion since I tend to agree with it:

Real bottom line: I don't see this as a factor with AMSC for a long time.

That said, let's remember that SmartGrid, and, long-distance transmission of power, really are two separate (but related) issues. As noted, crowded cities with no room for more cables - even below ground - is the first market, period; even before the SmartGrid, failure-tolerant aspect is added in. One reason Dept of Homeland Security is co-funding the demo in Manhattan. And if that is successful it is likely to lead to orders primarily for older, more crowded cities.

You'd also need to develop some kind of shutdown process in the event of a local "hot spot" to avoid that hot spot from literally blowing up.

No, that's already inherent in the SmartGrid design; the HTS automatically adds resistance to slow the flow and prevent out-and-out failures, even in the case of a sudden catastrophic event (eg terrorist bomb). That's why DHS is involved.

I'm guessing that HTS will be installed at the two ends first - eg, as the coils inside massive 10 MW wind turbines (design currently being worked on) where the wind blows; and inside major cities as point of use. But we'll go for years, I think, with standard, non-HTS systems connecting those two. Not only is it easier that way; but, unless AMSC licenses it's wire to others (eg Sumitomo), there won't be enough wire for years to handle the long-distance stuff; or, eg, a Japanese maglev.

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