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Superconducting cable sets records for power transmission

The results of a research project, developed by experts from 10 European countries, on a superconducting cable system have revealed an “industry first”.

“We have, for the first time, designed a high-voltage superconducting cable system capable of operating in direct current, while all the existing projects only deal with alternating current,” said Christian-Eric Bruzek, Senior Project Manager at Nexans.

“The most challenging tasks is to manage the connection between the cable and the existing grid using high-voltage terminations. This will set the standards of the future for high-voltage grids.”

The technological solutions for superconducting wires are setting new records. They are able to carry 500 times more electricity than copper wires and can transport up to 3.2GW of electric power, says the research team. The experts designed a cable system that includes high-voltage insulations and terminations.

These results were presented to 60 participants at an international workshop in La Spezia. The breakthroughs were achieved within Demonstration No 5 of Best Paths, the largest research project funded by the European Union in the energy field in the last decade.

The other innovation in the superconducting technology presented in La Spezia is that the cable is manufactured using magnesium diboride as a superconductor, which is very economical to produce.

Giovanni Grasso, Sales and Business Development Manager, Columbus Superconductors, said: “The reliability of our magnesium diboride wires has already been demonstrated by a number of full-scale prototype devices, such as MRI systems, induction heaters and fault current limiters.”

Several transmission system operators (TSOs) have been involved in the project. As future customers, they articulated their vision on future grids in a panel discussion, said the team.

Jean-Yves Astic, R&D program Manager, Réseau de Transport d'Électricité, added: “To get TSOs on board for investing in superconducting links, we would need customised use cases, ranging from 63 to 320kV including details on the exact costs, practical system operation as well as long term maintenance.”

The next step for the widespread use of this technology, according to the project team, would be to develop testing guidelines for high-voltage direct current superconducting cables together with a consortium of manufacturers to ensure safety and quality standards.

Bethan Grylls

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