Instrumentation & Controls, O&M

American Superconductor and Rockwell Automation Successfully Operate World’s First Commercial-Scale HTS Motor

WESTBOROUGH, MA-American Superconductor Corp. and Rockwell Automation, an operating unit of Rockwell International Corp., have announced the successful operation of the world’s first 1,000 horsepower (hp) high temperature superconducting (HTS) motor. This new motor was designed to utilize HTS wires instead of copper wires on the rotating shaft of the motor. American Superconductor studies indicate the key benefits of using HTS wires are significant reductions in size and manufacturing costs of industrial and ship propulsion motors and increases in electrical efficiency.

“The successful demonstration of the 1,000 hp HTS motor is a significant engineering achievement,” said Joseph Swann, Rockwell Automation president, power systems. “Through our participation in this project, Rockwell Automation hopes to further the development of this important energy-saving technology, paving the way for ground-breaking research and development that will contribute to the commercial success of superconductivity.”

Industry experts estimate that the current market for industrial motors with power ratings of at least 1,000 horsepower is approximately $1 billion per year worldwide. The market for electric generators over 30 megawatts, which involve the same fundamental technology as motors, is approximately $2 billion per year worldwide.

Large motors are the workhorses of industry. Today, conventional motors utilize approximately 25 percent of all electric power generated in industrialized countries. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that higher efficiency HTS motors could save U.S. industry billions of dollars per year in electrical operating costs. These gains in operating efficiency also mean more power available for the new digital applications of electricity.

“Our HTS wires not only operate with higher electrical efficiency, they are able to carry more than 100 times the power of copper wires with the same dimensions,” said Greg Yurek, American Superconductor chief executive. “The higher power density of HTS wires is the basis for disrupting the global industrial motor business-making it increasingly profitable through reductions in motor manufacturing costs by 25 to 40 percent. These reductions are achieved through the implementation of innovative designs and reductions by up to a factor of three in the size of industrial motors-all made possible by HTS technology.”

The 1,000 hp motor follows demonstrations over the last decade of a series of HTS motors with ever increasing power ratings. Success of the 1,000 hp motor depended on the development of higher performance HTS wire and the creation of new designs for components of the motor.

The 1,000 hp HTS motor was developed under the auspices of the DOE Superconductivity Partnership Initiative. The intention of the DOE program is the promotion of advanced high efficiency motors based on superconducting technologies.

“Superconducting power technologies can help address concerns about the reliability of the electric grid,” said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. “DOE’s support for these types of projects promotes our mission of efficient, environmentally-friendly energy solutions.”

American Superconductor has more recently focused on the design and development of HTS motors that fully leverage the higher power density of HTS wires. The company has already tested key components for its new, patented design for ultra-compact HTS motors. It believes these motors will be much less expensive to manufacture compared with conventional motors that use only copper wires and will be more energy efficient as well. American Superconductor expects to have its first 5,000 hp HTS ultra-compact motor ready for testing in the Spring of 2001. It has already let contracts for manufacture of certain components of this motor, which it sees as the market entry point for HTS motors. The company is also working under a U.S. Navy contract on design concepts for 33,000 hp ship propulsion motors.