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As part of the Eccoflow project, Nexans and 13 European partners have designed a multi-purpose superconducting fault current limiter (SFCL) suitable for a range of utility applications.

The design and development phase of the four-year project is complete and manufacturing of the SFCL will commence soon.

Fault currents, such as those created during short circuits, are a significant issue for electrical networks, and grid equipment must be suitably protected against them to ensure safety, reliability and availability.

Thanks to their almost instantaneous response to fault currents, SFCLs can prevent the damaging overloading of switchgear and other power network components that can occur during short circuits.

This could also be important in light of the increase in distributed generation, according to Nexans.

The Eccoflow SFCL will be assembled in 2011 at the company’s facility in Hurth, Germany, and will be installed for a six-month test programme at an Endesa substation in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Nexans claims that the new device, using second-generation HTS tapes for the current-limiting components, will be the first multi-purpose unit suitable for applications at different places in the European grid.

On completion of the programme in Mallorca, a long-term test is scheduled in the Vychodoslovenska Energetika power network in Slovakia, where the SFCL will work within a transformer feeder.

The objective of the Eccoflow project is to design, build and test within the European grid an SFCL based on second-generation (2G) HTS tapes, which are now becoming available with suitable performances.

Compared with previous HTS materials, 2G tapes have higher current densities, enabling more compact devices and providing lower operating costs.

The SFCL is said to be attractive for network operators as it provides a method of dealing with the increasing incidence and severity of fault currents as well as improving the planning of electricity grids, including smart grids.

Nexans provided the first commercial SFCL device worldwide for a pilot installation in the UK, at a medium-voltage (11kV) substation in Lancashire.

A second device for the UK market has just been completed and is hoped to help optimise the performance and safety of a local power network in the Liverpool area.

In 2009, the company also commissioned an HTS device at a power plant.

This commercial SFCL system was tailored to provide short-circuit protection for the internal medium-voltage power supply that feeds coal mills and crushers in the Boxberg brown coal power plant of Vattenfall Europe Generation in Saxony, Germany.

A field test was successfully completed at the end of 2010.

With the EC-funded Eccoflow device, Nexans is completing its portfolio of SFCL devices to improve the safety and efficiency of distribution networks and industrial grids.

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