The Dept. of Energy recently funded a project with Advanced Magnet Lab, Palm Beach, Fla., to develop a superconducting direct-drive generator for large wind turbines. The generator will use superconducting wires in the windings and be cryogenically cooled. This will eliminate the need for a gearbox, one of the turbine’s heaviest components, which usually must be lifted by crane into the turbine nacelle. Eliminating the gearbox could let smaller turbines generate as much power as larger units because higher turbine power ratings traditionally have demanded bigger gearboxes.
And superconductive wiring will lead to smaller, lighter generators. The zero-resistance wirings should boost efficiency and make for more-reliable generators, once cryogenic issues are properly addressed. The company will work with engineers at Argonne National Laboratory who have experience in cryogenics and large-scale simulations.