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GE Successfully Tests High-Temperature Superconducting Generator

In the future, power from wind and water could be produced with much smaller, much lighter, and more efficient generators, thanks to advancements in superconducting technology.

GE’s Power Conversion facility in Rugby, England, just completed successful trials for its Hydrogenie generator, which is highly efficient in power production, yet with significantly less size and mass than conventional versions.

The Hydrogenie uses a superconducting layer instead of copper wire in the rotor windings, which enables the use of wires only about 2% of the size of those in conventional generators. The generator operates at a temperature of -230°C, using a system of helium gas piped through the device’s coils to keep it at the required temperature.

Not long ago, superconductivity was only seen at temperatures of about -269°C, but a new generation of high temperature superconductors is enabling devices such as the Hydrogenie, and the team behind it believes that the technology could have a substantial impact alternative energy production.

“This technology is a true breakthrough. It could radically improve the efficiency of equipment producing electricity from water and from wind and may also be suitable for further applications down the road.” – Martin Ingles, Hydrogenie project manager

GE says that the individual technology developments that make up the Hydrogenie superconducting generator project can be used in other applications that are slow speed/high torque, such as wind power and marine propulsion. In a wind power scenario, a superconducting generator could produce a lifetime energy savings of as much as 20%, and significantly reduce the amount of mass necessary for mounting on the turbine towers.

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