A super breakthrough for generators

General Electric has received a $12 million grant from the US Department of Energy to support the development of a technology for high-efficiency generators.

Building on its research into high-temperature superconducting (HTS) materials and generators, GE has proposed a 3.5-year program to move the technology toward full commercialisation.

To be conducted by a GE-led team of industrial partners, utilities and national laboratories, the program is expected to produce improvements in the efficiency and reactive power capability of new generators, as well as the capability to retrofit the new technology into existing generators.

Much of the development will be conducted by GE’s Corporate Research and Development (CR&D), headquartered in Niskayuna, NY, and GE Power Systems in Schenectady, NY.

While retaining the stator design that is today’s industry standard, the proposed generator will introduce a new rotor design and HTS winding ‘unprecedented in its simplicity’, according to GE.

Concept designs indicate that new superconducting generators can achieve significant efficiency gains that translate into life cycle energy savings of approximately $500 thousand over the life of a 100 megavolt-ampere (MVA) generator, and up to $10 million for a 1200 MVA unit.

The proposed program will include the production and testing of a 1.5 MVA proof-of-concept model for the rotor, cryorefrigeration and HTS subsystems. Those results will be scaled to a 100 MVA prototype generator that will be fully tested under load.

GE has enlisted the support of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for additional funding for this project. The National Energy Group (a subsidiary of Pacific Gas and Electric) and American Electric Power will participate in site integration studies and perform an economic benefits analysis.

In addition to the GE CR&D Center and GE Power Systems, the GE development team will include GE Industrial Systems and GE Medical Systems. American Superconductor will be the primary HTS wire supplier. Advanced refrigeration components will be developed in cooperation with Sumitomo Heavy Industries and Praxair.

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory will conduct special studies as part of the development program.