This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 05, 2003

U.S. Navy Orders 36.5-Megawatt Superconducting Propulsion Motor

American Superconductor Corporation (AMSC) announced on March 3rd that the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research has awarded the company a contract to design and build a prototype 36.5-megawatt propulsion motor using high-temperature superconductors (HTS). AMSC will work with Northrop Grumman Corporation, a military ship builder, on the $70 million contract. HTS materials carry electrical current with essentially zero resistance. The Navy's HTS motor will produce nearly 50,000 horsepower while measuring less than half the size and roughly one-third the weight of a standard motor with copper conductors.

"The U.S. Navy is going electric," says Rear Admiral Jay M. Cohen, Chief of Naval Research. "Superconductor technology will help reduce the size and weight of motors, generators, power transmission and supporting electrical components to help speed the transition to electric this decade."

The electric power industry expects to eventually use superconducting cables to build to a more energy-efficient, high-capacity transmission system. But currently, AMSC is helping solve transmission woes using a spin-off from its superconducting business instead. A voltage regulating system originally developed for the company's superconducting magnetic energy storage devices is now being used as a stand-alone device to help transmission systems respond to voltage fluctuations caused by heavy industrial machinery. Launched in May of last year, the system, called D-VAR, has been sold to number of U.S. and international utilities. In Connecticut, a new D-VAR system will allow an additional 100 megawatts of power to flow through congested transmission lines serving the southwestern part of the state. PacifiCorp also installed a D-VAR system at the Wyoming Wind Energy Project, and Nordex USA Inc. is planning to install one at a 2.6-megawatt wind facility in Minot, North Dakota. According to AMSC, wind facilities are often located in weak parts of transmission grids and can sometimes cause transmission lines to experience voltage irregularities, which the D-VAR system can correct. See the AMSC Web site.