We told you last week about American Superconductor, Inc – the company that is trying to revolutionize the power grid by developing superconductors to deliver more power, more efficiently, through smaller wires.
What we didn’t tell you is that American Superconductor’s main business is not building power lines - it’s building electrical equipment for wind turbines. They build their superconductors into the very guts of the turbine, which boosts performance since the wires can carry 100 times more power than their copper counterparts.
In fact, at least one of the reasons that current wind turbine technology tops off at around 5 or 6 megawatts per turbine is that the wires couldn't handle more power, at least according to American Superconductor vice president Daniel McGahn. He claims that his company’s superconductors will allow engineers to design a 10 megawatt turbine - something we haven't seen thus far. Similar HTS (high temperature superconductor) wind turbine research is taking place in Demark, and at Zenergy Power, another superconductor company.
Realistically, though, there are other reasons why we don’t see any 10 megawatt turbines. They are the same reasons the vast majority of wind turbines out there are in the 1-3 megawatt range, even though we could go higher if we wanted: building humongous wind turbines is a pain in the butt. Just transporting the blades is a remarkable feat of engineering. Giant turbines are expensive to build, install and maintain. It’s usually worth your while to build 10 1.5 megawatt turbines than attempt to put all your eggs in one behemoth.
Via Physics Today
written by Hendrik42, May 05, 2009
written by Bruce Considine, May 20, 2009
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