United States

United States

Technical Digest: Big leap in concept - Economic conductor

Validation of the economics of a potential 10 MW superconductor wind turbine using high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire instead of copper wire for the generator's rotor is being carried out by the US government's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and American Superconductor (AMSC).

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AMSC Windtec will develop the component and system designs separately. Under the 12-month program it will analyse the cost of a complete 10 MW wind turbine using a direct-drive superconductor generator and all other wind turbine components, including the blades, hub, power electronics, nacelle, tower and controls. NREL's National Wind Test Centre will then benchmark and evaluate the design's economics, both in terms of its initial cost and its overall cost of energy.

If the concept proceeds to prototype, it is expected to result in a much smaller, lighter wind turbine that is more efficient and reliable than conventional generators and gearboxes. AMSC estimates that a 10 MW class superconductor generator system would weigh about 120 tonnes, compared with about 300 tonnes for direct-drive generators of similar power rating. In addition, direct-drive generators eliminate the need for massive gearboxes, which have the highest maintenance costs in conventional turbines. AMSC claims the superconductor wind turbine concept is based on proven technology, having developed superconductor ship propulsion motors and generators under contracts with the US Navy. AMSC and TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company have been working on a project since October 2007 to develop HTS and related technologies for 10 megawatt-class direct-drive wind generators under an award from the National Institute of Science and Technology's advanced technology program.

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