By Isabella Kaminski
Applied Superconductor, based in Blyth in the North-East of England, has secured funding of more than £3.6 million from a consortium of three investors: Octopus Ventures, OCAS Ventures and IP Group (through the Finance for Business North East Technology Fund).
The money will contribute to the company’s development of a device called a ‘superconducting fault current limiter’, which protects electrical networks from the effects of short circuits.
According to Applied Superconductor, the UK’s progress towards a smart grid had been hampered by the prospect of increasing instability through the merging of lower voltage electricity from renewable sources with higher voltage electricity produced via traditional power stations.
The new device is triggered when a fault occurs. Within a few milliseconds it limits the short circuit currents to lower levels. That means no component or switching equipment in the system becomes overloaded and can operate safely. Applied Superconductor says it provides a cost-effective and safe method of connecting electricity generated by renewable energy sources into the main grid without major infrastructure upgrades.
Herbert Piereder, Chief Executive of Applied Superconductor, says: “The widespread application of fault current limiters offers a huge potential for savings through reduced capital investment, speeding up the connection of renewable generation, reducing losses, getting more out of existing networks and significantly improving the quality and security of supply."
Applied Superconductor claims to be the first company to have established that superconducting fault current limiters are a key technology in the development of Smart Grids and has gained widespread attention in the energy sector for its development.
Piereder says: “This constitutes a key step in our development. It will allow us to expand our market presence and operations to secure a substantial share in this rapidly developing market.”
Luke Hakes of Octopus Ventures says: “[Applied Superconductor] has proven itself to be a company which has taken the lead in this very sophisticated technology. As a result it has positioned itself right at the heart of the seismic changes affecting how electricity is generated and brought safely into our homes and places of work.”
The news comes a week after Applied Superconductor signed a £4m contract with Rolls Royce and the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), a public-private partnership between 6 global industrial companies and the UK Government, to reduce downtime from electrical power cuts.