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World’s longest superconductor cable: THEVA develops superconductors for SuperLink project in Munich

The time has finally come: Munich’s public utilities company (“Stadtwerke München”) and five cooperation partners – among them Ismaning-based THEVA – have the green light to start development and testing of the components for a 12­kilometer-long superconductor cable in Munich as part of the SuperLink project. The accompanying funding was recently approved by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the project is also supported by the University of Applied Sciences South Westphalia and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

The aim of the project is to install an extremely compact high-performance superconductor cable, which requires little space, has a reduced rate of energy loss and unlike other power line solutions has no negative environmental impact during operation – conventional power lines emit electric or magnetic fields and the cables themselves have a thermal effect on the soil. Further advantages of the superconductor solution lie in the vastly reduced costs and environmental impact during construction.

The use of superconductors is a pioneering technical solution for the future of energy grids in metropolitan areas. More than 30 years after the Nobel Prize was awarded to Karl-Alexander Müller and Karl Bednorz, the German discoverers of high-temperature superconductivity, German companies are positioning themselves as leading in regard to its practical implementation and underline the reputation of Bavaria as a technology hotspot. 

As part of the SuperLink project, all components (superconductors, cables and cooling) are to be developed and tested within two years, so that they can be field-tested in the main transformer station in Munich’s north under real operating conditions in the grid. If the test is successful, SWM Infrastruktur, a Munich-based energy provider, plans in the second phase to install a 12­-kilometer­long high-voltage superconductor cable line from the north of Munich to the load center in the south – it would be the world’s first superconductor cable line of this length with a real supply mandate.

To ensure that all components are optimally matched from the outset, three technology supplier companies – Linde for the cooling technology, NKT for the cable technology and THEVA for the superconductors – are involved from the start.

Dr. Werner Prusseit, Managing Director at THEVA, says: “This is a very special project. As part of an industrial consortium with broad collective expertise, we are developing a solution, which will serve as a sort of ‘blueprint’ and use case for similar projects in other cities. Since the development of the components for the project involves partners with scalable cable and cooling technologies, as well as providers of modular construction and operation services, we are very flexible when it comes to design, installation and operation of the SuperLink, allowing us to quickly adapt our solution to other situations and locations. This paves the way for the transformation of urban energy supply infrastructure and makes smart cities a reality more quickly.”