Wind energy industry may get some good news with new superconductors

Wind energy industry may get some good news with new superconductors

January 18, 2013 0 By Angie Bergenson

US Wind Energy Systems

New superconductors could help the wind energy industry

The wind energy industry in the U.S. has received a lot of good news recently. With the extension of the Production Tax Credit, which financially supports many of the country’s wind energy projects, the industry has managed to secure at least another year of dynamic growth. Free from the worry of the Production Tax Credit, for now at least, the industry can now focus on the continuing enigma of efficient offshore wind energy systems.

Scientists develop iron-based superconductor for wind turbines

Scientist from the Brookhaven National Laboratory are working to solve one of the major issues that has kept offshore wind energy from finding any significant amount of success in the U.S. Though wind energy has managed to capture acclaim throughout the country, there are problems concerning the efficiency of wind turbines that have made the use of wind energy unpopular. One of the problems lies with the superconductors used to build wind turbines, some of which are based on ceramic materials.

Superconductor may be a powerful new tool for the wind energy industry

Scientists have developed a new, low-cost superconductor based on iron, which they believe will be much more durable and more affordable than alternatives. This superconductor itself is inexpensive to produce, so the cost of manufacture is not likely to trickle down to consumers in any significant fashion. Scientists believe that wind turbines built with these iron-based superconductors will be more effective than their conventional counterparts, thus provide the wind energy industry with a new tool to reach parties interested in alternative energy.

Cerium oxide may derail affordability

There is one problem with the new superconductor, however, in that it uses cerium oxide, a powder derived from the rare earth metal cerium. Because of the rarity of cerium, cerium oxide can be very expensive, at least enough to offset the affordable prospects of the new iron-based superconductors. The future of many forms of alternative energy are actually based on the use of rare earth elements, which may actually be bad news for some industries.

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