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Exclusive: Veir raising $50M for superconductor power lines

Illustration of an electricity pylon with a dollar sign at the top.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Veir is preparing to raise at least $50 million to replace strained power lines with high-capacity superconductors, CEO Tim Heidel tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Upgrading existing grid infrastructure is one of the only ways to meet surging energy demand.

Big picture: Power-hungry data centers are driving an explosion in energy consumption.

  • Proposed power lines that would connect those load centers with solar, wind, batteries, geothermal and other clean energy sources face years-long permitting delays and interconnection backlogs.
  • Veir says it's found a way to free capacity on existing grids, mitigating the need for new transmission.

How it works: The startup replaces the aluminum and steel used in conventional wires with high-temperature superconductive tape, which it says has 5-10 times the capacity.

  • The tape isn't new technology. Veir's breakthrough is keeping the material cool at lower cost.

"Past attempts used large pipes that were very heavy, and because of that weight could only be built underground, which is expensive," Heidel says.

  • "We're using smaller pipes, which enables going overhead."

Veir to date has raised $40 million, including a $25 million round last summer, and $3.3 million from ARPA-E, the U.S. Energy Department's advanced energy research arm.

  • Investors include Engine Ventures, Breakthrough Energy, Galvanize Climate Solutions, and Congruent Ventures.
  • Veir plans to kick off its Series B in Q2. Company leadership is discussing the round's target, but it's aiming to at least double the raise last year.

The intrigue: Veir says it's gotten a leg up from another high-tech energy sector: nuclear fusion, which also relies on high-temperature superconductors.

  • As fusion developers have invested in building a superconductor supply chain, the material's cost has "dropped precipitously," Heidel says.

What's next: Veir completed a low-voltage outdoor demonstration near its headquarters in Woburn, Massachusetts. It plans to use the Series B to build a 500-750-meter pilot.

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