The European Union recently launched SUPRAPOWER, a four-year project led by Tecnalia of Spain, that includes nine other industry and science partners across Europe. The initiative's goal is to research and produce superconductor technology to develop a next-gen wind turbine that could cut manufacturing cost of current day turbines by 30%. The EU plans to construct more offshore and land wind farms, but the extreme cost of building and maintaing the massive turbines has lead leaders to seek more cost effective prototypes.
The Karisruhe Institute of Technology's Cryogenic Engineering Division is focusing on reducing the size of wind turbines using superconductors. Below a certain temperature superconductors have no electrical resistance and conduct electricity without a loss. The researchers are developing a rotating cryostat that will cool superconducting coils to minus 253 degrees, ensuring the highest efficiency of the coils and thereby reducing the size, weight and cost of turbines. The project will design, construct, and test super conducting dummy coils in the lab before launching them out in the field. Suprapower's overall goal is to maximize wind turbine efficiency in order to meet the EU's goal of cutting emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.