The breadth and coverage of analytical expertise in the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs) are unique assets that underpin IEA efforts to support innovation for energy security, economic growth and environmental protection. The 39 TCPs operating today involve about 6 000 experts from government, industry and research organisations in more than 50 countries1.

High-Temperature Superconductivity (HTS TCP)


Enabling high capacity wind with superconductivity

The HTS TCP aims to analyse superconductivity technology, monitor developments in industry standards, and assess the benefits and existing barriers to deployment. It brings together manufacturers, cryogenics research, laboratories and trade organisations to enable significant improvements in the generation, transmission, distribution and use of electric power. The recent roadmap for the widespread integration of high-temperature superconductors into the electricity supply network highlights both traditional and innovative applications. 

One of the newer applications for high-temperature superconducting cables - a generator for ultra-large wind turbines (Rugby, United Kingdom).*

Between 1973-2013 electricity demand worldwide increased nearly four times, from 440 TWh to 1 677 TWh.** In some world regions, electricity network infrastructure is ageing and in need of significant improvements. Incorporating superconducting cable technologies into electrical generators and equipment increases system efficiency, reliability and safety. As a result, CO2 emissions are reduced and energy security is improved.

Losses in electricity transmission may result from the resistance of the wires and cables as well as from the transformation of the high voltages needed for transmission lines into the lower voltage needed for end-users. Because high-temperature superconducting cables transport current with essentially no or very low electrical resistance they can transmit up to ten times more power than conventional copper cables (or can carry equivalent power at much lower voltages). In addition these cables require reduced space in urban environments since they may be installed underground and they do not produce a magnetic field or heat.

Through a number of pilot projects in the countries participating in the HTS as well as through others from around the world, cable technology is moving from the pre-commercial to the commercial stage for electricity transmission; as such, it is increasingly being considered for a variety of applications, including in the transport, industry, medical, and defence sectors.

For these reasons in 2014 the HTS TCP held a workshop to examine the state of the art and to discuss the most promising HTS applications beyond 2020. The information collected at the workshop laid the groundwork for developing a roadmap setting out the steps necessary for the widespread integration of cables into the electricity supply network. Policy needs, and consumer awareness are considered. In messages, market considerations (e.g. value chains), research addition the roadmap explores the potential for other applications, including high capacity (>10 MW) wind turbines.

As superconducting cable technologies would enable smaller and lighter generators than is possible with conventional materials, this could essentially eliminate the need for a gearbox. The roadmap highlighted the need for prototype generators for high-capacity wind turbines in order to test materials, components, and performance. Three wind turbine companies have begun to lay the groundwork for slow-turning, high-torque generators. In addition superconducting cables are particularly suited to integrating variable, high-capacity sources of power as they operate at higher current levels with much lower losses and a reduced need for voltage transformation steps. These recommendations are compiled in the roadmap, HTS from Pre-Commercial to Commercial: A Roadmap to Future Use of HTS by the Power Sector.

* Photo courtesy of General Electric Company 

** IEA, Paris (2015), Key World Energy Statistics


  • Efficient and resilient power networks
  • Fault current limiters, cables, rotating machines for large wind turbines
  • Low-cost, high-current, superconductors
  • Roadmap


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Contracting Parties  12  1  -
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