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Improved resistance to short circuits

08. September 2011

Superconductive fault current limiters in power plants

Short circuits are expensive for power plants and electricity grids. Already during the construction of the plants, each component has to be designed to withstand the maximum possible loading in the case of a short circuit. If an incident does actually occur, downtimes and damaged system components can cause additional costs. The BINE-Projektinfo brochure “Superconductive fault current limiters in power plants” (12/2011) presents a new kind of system for controlling short circuits that can substantially increase the safety, availability and reliability of electrical systems in power plants and when expanding electricity grids.

Superconductive fault current limiters do not influence the current flow in normal operation, since they do not provide any significant resistance. However, if the current density increases above a threshold value, the superconductivity collapses and an electrical resistance instantly forms within a few milliseconds. This helps to limit the effects of short-circuit events. Various system designs enable such components to be adapted to the specific requirements on site. The first generation of superconductive fault current limiters are based on ceramic materials. A number of prototypes are currently being tested in various locations. With the upcoming expansion of the electricity grid in Germany, these fault current limiters can help prevent expensive retrofitting and facilitate the integration of new, decentralised small-scale power plants (e.g. wind farms).

A superconductive fault current limiter was used for the first time in the Boxberg power plant in 2009. In the near future, it is planned to test a second-generation system based on metal tape with a thin coating of extremely high performing superconductive materials at the same location. The BINE Projektinfo brochure “Superconductive fault current limiters in power plants” (12/2011), which can be obtained free of charge from the BINE Information Service at FIZ Karlsruhe, is available online at or by calling +49 228 92379-0.