Editor’s note: Commercially available and sufficiently inexpensive superconducting material will provide great benefit to power generators, transmission equipment, and consumers alike. It will eventually reduce the amount of power lost from generation to consumption, which means less of it will be needed, most likely even after the economy starts growing again.
- DOE Smart Grid program is moving toward demonstration of superconducting fault current limiting transformer
- ARPA-E SMES development work making excellent progress in demonstrating the high-power capabilities of magnet coils for energy storage device using high-performance superconducting wire
- U.S. Army Research Lab joins SMES work to develop energy storage device for tactical microgrid
- ARPA-E wind turbine generator program aims to replace rare-earth-based permanent magnets with high-performance superconducting wir
SuperPower Inc., a subsidiary of Furakawa Electric Company of Japan, together with project partners on a number of device development and demonstration programs announced progress toward the realization of market-ready devices.
“As the producer of second-generation (2G) high temperature superconducting (HTS) wire, the enabling component for all of these devices, SuperPower is pleased to report progress in each program,” Traute Lehner, Senior Manager of Marketing and Government Affairs at SuperPower, said at the SuperConductingCity Exhibition of the 2013 Hannover Fair in Germany. “Delivery of our high performance conductor for the fabrication of the SMES, wind turbine, and fault current limiting transformer prototype devices is on schedule and fully meeting specifications. Test results are as, or better than, expected. New wire development activities are also on schedule and meeting expectations.”
The U.S. Department of Energy, under a Smart Grid Demonstration Program is supporting development of a superconducting fault current limiting (SFCL) transformer by the project team led by SuperPower and including SPX Transformer Solutions (formerly SPX-Waukesha Electric Systems), Southern California Edison, and the University of Houston. The program objective is to design, develop, manufacture and test a smart-grid compatible 28 MVA three-phase SFCL medium power utility transformer with two years of in-grid operation at the Southern California Edison Smart Grid substation in Irvine, Calif.
In addition to offering greater device efficiency and the safety benefits of non-oil cooling, HTS-based transformers will provide a smaller footprint than conventional transformers, enabling existing substations to increase distribution capability without expanding into limited or expensive real estate. Adding the FCL feature into the transformer enables the device to rapidly react to and passively limit surges at high power levels.
Mr. Shirish Mehta, Technical Advisor to SPX Waukesha reports that, “we have made significant progress in meeting the originally scheduled goals on key milestones for this project. We are excited about recent results of tests on the conductor performance with respect to AC losses in perpendicular fields for the conductor arrangement we have developed for the FCL HTS transformer windings. We will perform many other tests with transport current and different magnitude and direction of fields to validate these initial results. This validation should provide a pathway toward a low loss transformer with a simpler cooling system design that is expected to result in improved performance and reduced costs. It is our expectation that these improvements should accelerate the introduction of this new technology in the power delivery industry.”
Mehta continued, “many other aspects of this project, such as transformer design, cryo-dielectric materials development and winding techniques are also progressing well and we all are looking forward to installation of this 28 MVA transformer on the Southern California Edison grid for performance evaluation in real world conditions over a two-year period of time.”
Another program that involves the development of a superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES) system with direct power electronics interface is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). The goal of this program is to develop a competitive, fast response, grid-scale MWh SMES as demonstrated by a small-scale 10 kW, 1.7 MJ prototype with a direct connection power electronics converter. The team that includes ABB, Brookhaven National Laboratory, SuperPower, and the University of Houston, reports that all of the coils for the magnet have been built by Brookhaven with final tests currently underway, a novel superconducting bypass switch has been built and successfully tested by Brookhaven, power electronics converters have been built and successfully tested by ABB, and the capabilities of a new plasma-assist MOCVD superconductor deposition system have been successfully demonstrated by the University of Houston. V.R. Ramanan, Executive Consulting Scientist and the Project Manager from ABB, said, “each project team member is making excellent progress toward accomplishing the milestones and we feel confident that this technology development project will be successfully completed by the end of 2013.”
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has been closely following the progress of the ARPA-E SMES program and is providing follow-on funding to the team to evaluate the military requirement for microgrids. Dr. Paul Barnes, Chief of Power Components, of the Army Research Laboratory commented, “This is an important technology development and it is great to have such a collaboration on the project.” The program activities will kick off later this month.
SuperPower is involved with a second ARPA-E program, in partnership with the University of Houston, TECO-Westinghouse, Tai Yang Research Company and the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to develop high-performance and low cost superconducting wires and coils for high power wind generators as part of the rare earth alternatives for critical technologies (REACT) program. The University of Houston is working toward a four-fold improvement in the HTS wire current density at device operating conditions of 30°K and in a 2 Tesla magnetic field, which is expected to lead directly to a dramatic price improvement. Haran Karmaker, R&D Principal Engineer, at TECO-Westinghouse reports that “the only viable technology for high power direct drive wind turbine generators for offshore applications in the 10 to 20 MW power range includes the use of HTS wire field excitation to reduce size and weight to practical levels. The HTS wire specifications from SuperPower with the projected 4X performance improvement has been used to design a 10 MW direct drive generator. Detailed design studies including electrical, mechanical and thermal performance modeling for commercial applications are being investigated in the program.”
An important component of each program is the ongoing development work in the second-generation high temperature superconducting wire that is being carried out at the University of Houston, under the leadership of Dr. Venkat Selvamanickam, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “We have already made significant progress in the development of high-performance HTS wires including a 65% enhancement in critical current at the operating condition of wind generators by engineering nanoscale defects in the HTS films in the ARPA-E REACT project. In the ARPA-E SMES project, we have achieved the highest-ever critical current in HTS films of less than two micrometers made by a chemical process through the development of a novel HTS film deposition system. We will be developing multifilamentary HTS wire technologies in the DOE Smart Grid FCL transformer project and the ARL SMES project to achieve significant reduction in ac losses,” said Dr. Selvamanickam.
“These strong partnerships with industry that are supported by U.S. government cost-share funds are the key to enabling the progress we are able to report today,” said Lehner. “Together with our partners in these programs and with our other key customers around the world who are also making progress toward realizing the potential of HTS, we look forward to the day when devices such as these are routinely utilized to improve our energy infrastructure.”