Thursday, April 16, 2009

American Superconductor to help US Tap Untapped Wind Resources

Ever been on a ship on the ocean (not everyone has, you know). But if you have, you've seen how unrelenting offshore winds can be. The May issue of National Defense Magazine has an article that focuses on this large, undeveloped US energy resource. Even without new technology, there's the potential to provide a major fraction of US energy needs with offshore wind farms.
However, American Superconductor Corp's High Temperature Superconductor (HTS) wire has the potential to enable turbines in the 10 MW class (3 MW are typically the largest found today) that also reduce the total weight by about one-third. This could be a big win for the industry, no pun intended. But before we get too excited, there's one persistent problem to keep in mind. The article cautions:
One of the greatest obstacles is the nation’s antiquated electric grid. An Energy Department study reports that approximately 300,000 megawatts-worth of wind projects are awaiting grid connection because of inadequate transmission capacity.
So, don't forget when you hear about progress with smart grid technology and standards, it's not just the savings we'll reap from resting power plants due to better energy management, it's also the ready renewable resources a smarter and better grid will enable to come online.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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