AMSC & DOE To Collaborate On 10 MW-Class Superconductor Wind TurbinesFebruary 09, 2009 by Jeff Shepard
American Superconductor Corp. announced that it has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and its National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) to validate the economics of a full 10 MW class superconductor wind turbine. AMSC is separately developing full 10 MW-class wind turbine component and system designs. A CRADA allows the Federal government and industry partners to optimize their resources, share technical expertise in a protected environment and speed the commercialization of technologies.
Under the 12-month program, AMSC Windtec™, a wholly owned subsidiary of AMSC, will analyze the cost of a full 10 MW-class superconductor wind turbine, which will include a direct drive superconductor generator and all other components, including the blades, hub, power electronics, nacelle, tower and controls. The NWTC will then benchmark and evaluate the wind turbine’s economic impact, both in terms of its initial cost and its overall cost of energy.
"The Department of Energy and its National Renewable Energy Lab recognize that wind power will represent a significant fraction of our power production in the years to come," said NREL Director Dan Arvizu. "High temperature superconductors hold promise for helping lower the overall cost of wind energy. We are pleased to be teaming with AMSC to move this technology forward."
Direct drive wind generator systems utilizing high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire instead of copper wire for the generator’s rotor are expected to be much smaller, lighter, more efficient and more reliable than conventional generators and gearboxes. AMSC estimates that its superconductor technology will enable a 10 MW-class generator system that would weigh approximately 120 metric tons, compared with approximately 300 metric tons for conventional direct drive generators with this power rating. In addition, direct drive generators eliminate the need for massive gearboxes, the component with the highest maintenance costs in conventional wind turbines. This will open up the opportunity for the development of wind farms in more areas on land and offshore.
Concurrent with the CRADA, AMSC and TECO-Westinghouse Motor Co. (TWMC) have been working on a project since October 2007 to develop HTS and related technologies for 10 MW-class direct drive wind generators under an award from the National Institute of Science and Technology’s Advanced Technology Program (ATP). The CRADA and ATP programs are intended to serve as a prelude to follow-on programs aimed at building and testing a full-scale prototype superconductor wind turbine, prior to commercialization.
Senior Vice President and AMSC Superconductors General Manager Dan McGahn said, "It is important for our economy to embrace new clean technologies that will increase our energy independence and strengthen our electricity infrastructure. Superconductors are today proving their tremendous power density and efficiency advantages to electric utilities and large power users. This program brings those same benefits to power generation and the rapidly growing wind power market."