2. Superconductors


Some metals cooled to very low temperatures (typically between -272 and -240°C) acquire the superconducting state, i.e. the ability to conduct electric current without resistance and, thus, without energy loss. Superconductivity has reached the industrial stage in some sectors for the production of intense magnetic fields such as medical imaging, particle accelerators and tokamaks. The applications of superconductivity to grid cables and current limiters have been the subject of experiments after the discovery in the mid-1980s of “high temperature” superconductivity (-196°C) which allows the use of liquid nitrogen for cryogenic purposes. Superconducting cables carry up to 5 times more energy than standard cables.


Tests have been conducted over the past fifteen years (Long Island 2008: 600 m, 138 kV, 574 MW; Essen 2014: 1000 m, 10 kV, 40 MW). Links have recently been put into service or are planned: Shingal/Korea 2019: 1000 m, 23 k, 50 MW; Shanghai 2021: 1200 m, 35 kV, 80 MW; Chicago 2021: ~ 100 m, 12 kV, 62 MW; Paris/Gare Montparnasse link project, 2 links of 80m, 1500V DC, 5MW). Experiments with current limiters (10 kV to 138 kV, from a few MVA to a few tens of MVA) have taken place in the USA, Asia (Korea, Japan, China), Germany and the United Kingdom since the 2010s, without leading to the deployment of these solutions.

Challenges and opportunities for DSOs

  • Potential use cases for DSOs: transfer of high power in a congested area (superconducting cables) or, in certain network configurations, coupling between primary substation transformers (superconducting limiters).
  • Superconducting cables raise questions about operation, maintenance and safety of hybrid networks.

EDSO Considerations

  • DSOs must regularly assess the maturity of superconductive technologies.

Last update: 28 September 2023