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Europe has made a firm commitment to develop the offshore wind energy through the project called “Suprapower”, which involves organizations and companies, led by Tecnalia technological center. The mission of the project is building more powerful, less heavy and bulky, more reliable and low-cost engines. The secret, the crux of the matter, is the superconductivity applied to the wind energy.
Susana Apiñaniz, the project coordinator that leads the technology center Tecnalia Research & Innovation, explains that it is mandatory to “break with the conventional technologies to go into a disruptive technology that reduces weight, volume and costs” in order to make achievable generators up to 10 MW.
The current technologies allow wind equipment with power between 6 and 7 MW, nevertheless it is hard to move towards higher power because of unmanageable dimensions and required foundations on the sea floor too much complex.
The project Suprapower aims to reduce the weight and size of turbines by 30 %, thus encouraging the reduction by 25 % of the overall costs and promotion of the offshore wind farms.
The Suprapower project involves companies, technological centers and universities of different European countries:
• The coordinator, Tecnalia Research & Innovation (Spain)
• Acciona Windpower (Spain)
• Acciona Energy (Spain)
• Columbus Superconductors (Italy)
• Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum (Germany)
• University of Southampton (United Kingdom)
• Institute of Electrical Engineering Slovak Academic of Sciences (Slovakia)
• Karlshuher Institut Technologie (Germany)
• D2M Engineering (France)
Suprapower is based on the superconductivity phenomenon of exactly zero electrical resistance occurring in certain materials when cooled below a characteristic critical temperature. So, this is not only a theoretical project, but also a starting point for an industrial application at competitive costs.
Susana Apiñaniz explains that the project has been based on the model of “replace traditional Copper coil, which has high losses, with superconducting lossless coil”. These smaller and lighter coils will go into wind turbines.
For cooling the windings, it will be used an in-contact cryostat modular unlike other equipment.
The superconducting material used for the project is MgB2 (Magnesium Diboride).
Suprapower also moves towards direct drive wind turbines, which transmit the rotation speed of the blades directly into the generator, avoiding the gearbox and reducing the weight.
The total budget for the project amounts to 5.39 M€, whereof 72% are European fundings.
The project is expected to close in November 2016.
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