New super-conductor turbines developed by Australian researchers could result in a significant impovement on current turbines, and enable the development of off-shore wind turbines along Australia’s coast within 5 years.
A superconductor is a material that can conduct electricity or transport electrons from one atom to another with no resistance. This means no heat, sound or any other form of energy would be released from the material when it has reached “critical temperature”, or the temperature at which the material becomes superconductive.
The new turbines, developed by a team at the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, will weigh 40 per cent less than current turbines just by taking away the gear box which sits in current models. The removal of the complex, heavy, and costly gear box also means the removal of a lot of maintenance.
“In our design there is no gear box, which right away reduces the size and weight by 40 percent,” said lead researcher and materials scientist Shahriar Hossain talking to sciencealert.com. “We are developing a magnesium diboride superconducting coil to replace the gear box. This will capture the wind energy and convert it into electricity without any power loss, and will reduce manufacturing and maintenance costs by two thirds.”
Another major benefit is the cost of building the turbine will be drastically reduced. Currently it costs roughly $15 million for each turbine to build, with the estimated cost for the new super-conductor turbines to cost roughly $3-5 million per turbine.
“Australia desperately needs sustainable energy sources. Wind is cheap, clean and we can get it on rainy and sunny days,” he said. “And considering Australia has more than 35,000 km of coastline, there is ample room for offshore wind farms. With industry support, we could install superconducting offshore wind turbines off the coast of Australia in five years, no problem.”
Here’s Hossain talking about their research: