5,000-HP superconducting electric motor

American Superconductor has built and demonstrated the world’s first 5,000-horsepower (hp), high temperature superconductor (HTS) electric motor. The company’s patented, ultra-compact HTS electric motors are designed to reduce manufacturing costs of industrial and ship propulsion motors by up to 40 % compared with conventional motors.

The electrical losses of HTS motors, which use HTS wires instead of copper wires on the rotor, are also much lower, which translates into significant fuel savings and lower operating costs.

American Superconductor’s prototype 5,000-hp HTS motor is about the size of a household refrigerator. It is as little as half the size and weight of a conventional 5,000-hp motor. Its net electrical losses, including losses associated with cryogenic cooling of the HTS wires, are up to half the electrical losses of a conventional motor.

Motors over 1,000 HP use approximately 25 percent of all electric power generated in the United States. The US Department of Energy estimates that the lower electrical losses of HTS motors could save US industry billions of dollars per year in electrical operating costs.

American Superconductor’s Electric Motors and Generators business is focused on development and commercialisation of electric motors over 1,000 hp and electric generators over 10 megawatts. Electric generators involve essentially the same technology as motors. ’We plan to field additional prototype motors and generators over the next two years and we are on track for commercial sales in 2004,’ said Greg Yurek, chief executive officer.

Industry experts estimate that the current market for industrial electric motors with power ratings over 1,000 hp, used in applications such as pumps, fans and compressors, is approximately $1.2 billion per year worldwide.

A major new market emerging for high-power electric motors is electric ship propulsion. According to industry experts, the current annual global market for electric motors used for electric propulsion in commercial cruise and cargo ships is approximately $250 million.

The market for ship propulsion motors is expected to grow rapidly to over $1 billion per year by 2010 because electric drives are becoming the propulsion system of choice for both commercial and Navy ships.