European partnership eyes new solutions for renewable energy transmission

European partnership eyes new solutions for renewable energy transmission

SuperNode, an Irish developer of energy transmission technology based on superconductivity, and the European Laboratory for Particle Physics CERN are collaborating to develop a novel type of insulation for superconducting cables in an effort to improve energy transmission and accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

Source: CERN

Under the terms of the agreement, CERN’s knowledge of cryogenics and vacuums will be used to test and analyze sample materials and subsystems for their suitability in SuperNode’s superconducting cable systems.

The candidate materials will be subjected to temperatures, pressures and environments replicating those that submarine and terrestrial superconducting cables face over their operational lifecycle.

“To meet increasing electricity demands, future transmission grids will have to reliably transfer bulk electricity over distances of hundreds of kilometres – connecting consumption hubs with areas of production, which are often located far away,” said John Fitzgerald, CEO of SuperNode.

“We believe that, by working together, we can find innovative solutions to improve the world’s energy infrastructure. Without new grid technology, we cannot integrate the level of renewables that governments across the world have targeted and we will not achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

CERN will also design and develop a test rig for the validation of scale prototypes. An engineer from SuperNode will be trained at CERN with a view to facilitating knowledge sharing between the partners.

The test rig will ultimately be installed at SuperNode’s Dublin headquarters, the European Cryogenic Centre for Superconductors.

“In its research, CERN pushes the limits of superconductivity to reach record energy levels and operates one of the largest vacuum systems in the world,” said Paolo Chiggiato, leader of the Vacuum, Surface and Coating group at CERN.

“In particular, to avoid collisions with residual gas molecules inside the accelerators, we have to reach extreme levels of vacuum. Vacuum is also used at CERN as a thermal insulator for our superconducting magnets. We believe that this know-how can be successfully applied to evaluate the technological solutions proposed to insulate the superconducting cables developed by SuperNode.”

According to CERN, superconducting cables will be a critical enabling technology for a renewables-powered future as they are capable of transferring very large amounts of power efficiently over long distances and require a much smaller surface area than conventional cables.

They can also operate at higher currents and therefore lower voltage levels than conventional copper-based cable technology, meaning that they require significantly less infrastructure, materials and space and have a smaller environmental footprint, CERN concluded.