In this paper, the commercial activities in the field of superconducting machines, particularly superconducting wind turbine generators, are reviewed and presented. Superconducting generators have the potential to provide a compact and light weight drive train at high torques and slow rotational speeds, because high magnetic fields can be produced by coils with very little loss. Three different superconducting wind turbine generator topologies have been proposed by three different companies. One is based on low temperature superconductors; one is based on high temperature superconductors; and one is a fully superconducting generator based on MgB2. It is concluded that there is large commercial interest in superconducting machines, with an increasing patenting activity. Such generators are, however, not without their challenges. The superconductors have to be cooled down to somewhere between 4 K and 50 K, depending on what type of superconductor is employed, which poses a significant challenge both from a construction and operation point of view. The high temperature superconductors can facilitate a higher operation temperature and simplified cooling, but the current price and production volumes prohibit a large scale impact on the wind sector. The low temperature superconductors are readily available, but will need more sophisticated cooling. Eventually the Cost of Energy from superconducting wind turbines, with particular emphasis on reliability, will determine if they become feasible or not and for such investigations large-scale demonstrations will be needed. © 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.
- Electric generators
- High temperature superconductors
- Superconducting devices
- Wind turbines