Superconducting Blackout Protection Device for Smart Grid

Today, Zenergy Power plc (AIM:ZEN), a company I am a cofounder of, announced that ConEd, one of thought leaders in the utility sector on transmission & distribution technology (conventional wisdom says they have to be, as given its tremendous load in a small area, the Manhattan grid is devilishly tricky to operate), has agreed to a deal to put in a new kind of fault current limiter, using high temperature superconducting technology.

This is hit number two in FCLs for Zenergy, which last month announced the first ever HTS FCL implementation into the grid with SoCal Edison, another of the global utility thoughtleaders.

Neal Dikeman is a partner at Jane Capital Partners, the editor of, and Chairman of Carbonflow, Inc. and

The Future of Power

While I don’t blog on it often, most of you know I was heavily involved in the founding of company called Zenergy Power plc (AIM:ZEN), one of the leading companies in high temperature superconductor technology. The origins of Zenergy began with the formation of SC Power Systems to commercialize a fault current limiter (“FCL”) technology developed by Australian Superconductors. In 2006, SC Power Systems merged with Trithor GmbH, Europe’s most advanced HTS company and the innovators behind the HTS induction heater, to form Zenergy.

This week Zenergy announced the successful testing of its MV FCL. This is the second time in less than two years Zenergy has proven that with the current state of HTS materials technology, successful devices can be made capable of changing the way industries operate. Before Zenergy, virtually the entire HTS superconductor world believed that no substantial progress would be made without a new class of wire, 2G, from new classes of materials coming on line.

While Zenergy has always believed that its 2G program is world class and the cost leader, by using ultra efficient DC HTS electromagnets to enable a new class of devices, Zenergy has been betting that the future of power does not have to wait:

The FCL itself is essentially an electrical valve, or “circuit breaker that doesn’t break” whose first use is to help control faults that trigger blackouts. The HTS coils act as a DC electromagnet, creating an entirely passive “safety relief valve” capable of clipping the top of fault current, without interrupting the normal power flow. If you think about it, we essentially run our grid today the same way we did 50 years ago. It works, but it’s brute force. In a world where demand response, distributed power, and intermittent power sources like renewables are playing a key role, we have to have much finer control and protection in power transmission and distribution, or just double up on the equipment. FCLs have long been believed to be a key to anchoring the grid of the future. But until now, no one had figured out to to make them work. With these tests, Zenergy has successfully shown an HTS FCL can take and automatically and instantaneously respond to multiple, numerous and repetitive power surges.

The HTS Induction Heater essentially uses an HTS coil to create induction currents to soften metal ingots in aluminium or copper plants. A process done over and over again in our metals industry. A process that is not currently greenhouse gas friendly. The HTS Induction Heater enables better control with literally half the energy use, and has won awards (including the Hermes Award) for its technology.

I wanted to congratulate the team on three continents who made this happen. The original core technologies involved in these products have had origins, and government support, from the US, Australia, Germany, and the UK. Zenergy’s efforts currently have R&D and engineering on three continents, and have involved, I believe something like 4 universities, have a dozen government agencies, and maybe a score of companies. That has not made the effort simpler. But energy is global. And cleantech is global. And it’s exciting for me to see cleantech technology transfer working on a global scale. I am very proud of the team.

Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners, is the CEO of Carbonflow, Inc. and Chairman of He is a Texas Aggie.