Long-distance energy transport through superconducting electric lines

Transporting the energy produced from renewable sources to areas of demand has become a strategic priority in many regions of the world, particularly in Germany, following its decision to phase out nuclear power. More generally, the energy transition policies of many countries seek to expand the electricity grid by way of both long- and short-distance links. In this context, superconducting electric lines represent an innovative technological solution that would significantly reduce energy transport costs and have a considerably smaller environmental and societal impact than other options.

Project aim and results:

This programme investigates the possibility of replacing standard HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) overhead lines and cables with DC superconducting cables, which, due to their inherent characteristics, permit the transport of large amounts of power without resistive losses. A comprehensive evaluation of the subject is also being carried out for the purpose of generating concrete proposals for policymakers, industry and scientists. Two collaboration framework agreements were signed in the second half of 2011, with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) respectively. The main focus of these two collaborations was the design and laboratory testing of a superconducting cable made of MgB2, a binary compound that has huge potential for power transmission applications. The project reached an important milestone in February 2014 with the successful testing of a prototype superconducting cable that was able to carry 20 kA of current. The testing configuration consisted of two 20m-long MgB2 cables (consisting of six 6.5 mm sub-cables), which were surrounded by a helium gas cryostat to maintain the required temperature (20 K). The total diameter of the cable set-up and the cryogenic envelope was only 16 cm.
Together with nearly 40 leading European scientific institutions, industries, utilities and TSOs, the IASS is also participating in an EU FP7 project on innovative transmission systems. One of the project’s demonstration areas – originally initiated by the IASS – involves the construction of a prototype MgB2 cable to be tested with parameters that mirror operational conditions.

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Project Duration:

  • 2011 - 2015

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