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An interesting study of why superconductors will and won't work well with off-shore wind turbines. AMSC is mentioned, but they decided not to respond.
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Fantastic link. There is lots to write about...

I try to read twice a week to keep up with the technology in physics and nanotechnology. There are so many breakthroughs because we can, for the first time, really observe things at the atomic level. The age of guessing why something is, is now the age of trying to develop ways to finally nailing down why things are as they are and how they can be made better.

The story made me laugh when it went through all the different government efforts, over varying multi-year time-frames, only to be outfoxed by things like the collapse of rare earth prices.

The story boils down to what it did 20 years ago -- efficiency. But there is also a common sense component. Cooling superconductors on tiny islands at sea, and how to repair that superconducting equipment, is not something easily delivered. When I hear permanent magnets, I think neodymium and this (from "Wind Turbine" on Wikipedia; sorry for the source):

In the PDD, however, there are no mechanical connections; the cylinders float within each other separated by an air gap, so the system doesn’t even need lubricant.

Although this reminds me of Capstone microturbines, and that company has been a wait-until-tomorrow company forever even with its "only one moving part" technology, there is a beauty for anything at sea that doesn't require lubrication and is non-corrosive (which I assume the PDD here is). To get to 20 MW, you are talking massive systems. Unless there is a breakthrough in room-temperature superconductors, permanent magnets look like a winner on simplicity and efficiency.

Taking 3 to 5 years for a study also allows technology to do an end-run on the study. Also from Wikipedia:

Additions of small amount (0.5 weight %) of nanoreinforcement (carbon nanotubes or nanoclay in the polymer matrix of composites, fiber sizing or interlaminar layers can allow to increase the fatigue resistance, shear or compressive strength as well as fracture toughness of the composites by 30–80%. Research has also shown that the incorporation of small amount of carbon nanotubes/CNT can increase the lifetime up to 1500%.

Carbon nanotube breakthroughs have started to ramp up. Carbon nanotubes have been around for a long time but the ability to see them atomically is causing R&D people to finally see how to get them from the lab into everyday devices.

I have always questioned how AMSC was going to stay in the race for superconductors. MgB2 may be the mix of the day, but YBCO has been the winner so far and for decades. But, there are too many deep pockets (including universities) trying to find out how superconductivity works and they are even looking at materials not labeled conductors -- dissimilar materials I think is their bucket name.

Let me end this with a quick comment about the last conference call. I find the new Marinetec degaussing system that cloaks the magnetic signature of ships to be the breakthrough product I wanted from AMSC. I waited two decades for something like this! At $10 million a ship, it is an AMSC part number to order and install. It uses superconducting wire but it has intellectual capital that resides in the Navy and AMSC. If new and better superconducting wire appears, AMSC can buy that but AMSC has the technology that makes coaking possible.

Fifteen ships over the next few years does not make AMSC a buy in my mind. The market cap of $121 million is misleading with all the cash that is now coming in. D-VAR + cloaking may finally turn me into an AMSC shareholder again. I see no need to rush making a buying decision. But, my concern about AMSC not doing basic R&D in superconducting materials is finally averted.

Again, thanks for the great link. It has been a long time since I have read anything that tried to look at wind systems in a serious way.

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