AMSC Teams with TWMC on Superconductor Wind Generator Project

American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC), an energy technologies company, and TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company (TWMC), a manufacturer of motors and generators, announced yesterday that they have formed a research joint venture to develop high temperature superconductor (HTS) and related technologies for high-power, direct drive wind generators for offshore wind farms.

Direct drive wind generator systems utilizing HTS wire instead of copper wire for the generator’s rotor are expected to be much smaller, lighter and more efficient than conventional generators and gearboxes, according to the companies. The companies also said that the net effect is expected to lower the cost of wind-generated electricity, particularly for offshore wind farms.

Lower weight HTS direct drive generator systems are expected to provide more power in a smaller package for about the same cost as conventional direct drive generators. By replacing copper with HTS on the generator’s rotor and utilizing a new high-efficiency stator design to be developed under this project, AMSC and TWMC estimate that they could produce 10 megawatt (MW) class direct drive generator systems that would weigh approximately 120 metric tons, or about one-third the weight of conventional direct drive generators with this power rating. Technically, weight reductions could be greater, albeit at a higher cost, giving wind energy system manufacturers and developers new options to design and deploy cost-effective offshore wind farms.

AMSC and TWMC also announced that they have received funding from the National Institute of Science and Technology’s (NIST) Advanced Technology Program (ATP) in the amount of $3.4 million, representing half of the $6.8 million, 30-month cost-shared research project to be conducted under the joint venture.

According to BTM Consult ApS, the installed base of offshore wind generated electricity at the end of 2006 was approximately 877 MW, representing approximately one percent of the world’s wind power capacity. By 2011, BTM predicts this figure will increase to 7,606 MW, representing eight percent of wind power capacity worldwide. Research firm Douglas-Westwood expects there will be $11.8 billion in offshore wind power capital expenditure over the next five years.

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