Improved Superconducting Wire for Wind Generators

Brookhaven National Laboratory
Superconducting Wires for Direct-Drive Wind Generators
Image of Brookhaven's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,506,594
Location: 
Upton, NY
Project Term: 
01/01/2012 to 06/30/2014
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Critical Need: 
Rare earths are naturally occurring minerals with unique magnetic properties that are used in electric vehicle (EV) motors and wind generators. Because these minerals are expensive and in limited supply, alternative technologies must be developed to replace rare-earth-based magnets in motors and generators. Alternatives to rare earths will contribute to the cost-effectiveness of EVs and wind generators, facilitating their widespread use and drastically reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Brookhaven National Laboratory is developing a low-cost superconducting wire that could be used in high-power wind generators. Superconducting wire currently transports 600 times more electric current than a similarly sized copper wire, but is significantly more expensive. Brookhaven National Laboratory will develop a high-performance superconducting wire that can handle significantly more electrical current, and will demonstrate an advanced manufacturing process that has the potential to yield a several-fold reduction in wire costs while using a using negligible amount of rare earth material. This design has the potential to make a wind turbine generator lighter, more powerful, and more efficient, particularly for offshore applications.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Brookhaven National Laboratory's superconducting wire would make wind generators practical for widespread deployment and result in the substantial reduction of greenhouse gases by positioning wind as a viable alternative to coal-powered electricity.
Security: 
The U.S. produces a small fraction globally of industrial rare earths. Developing alternatives to the use of rare earths has the potential to reduce our dependence on these materials and will have a positive impact on our national economic and energy security.
Environment: 
Cost-effective superconducting wire would enable widespread use of wind power and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions compared to coal power, which produces 20% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Economy: 
The average American spends nearly $4,000 each year on energy. Encouraging renewable alternatives to traditional sources of energy would diversify our energy portfolio and save consumers money in the long run.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Patrick McGrath
Project Contact: 
Dr. Qiang Li
Partners
American Superconductor