SuperPower Reports on HTS Transformer Ranking at 2004 U.S. DOE Peer Review

SuperPower Reports on HTS Transformer Ranking at 2004 U.S. DOE Peer Review


Intermagnetics’ SuperPower Subsidiary Reports on Ranking of HTS Transformer Project Following 2004 DOE Peer Review; Citing Lessons Learned and Plans to Move Ahead with Root Cause Analysis

  • SuperPower’s report on the final results of the Department of Energy’s Superconductivity Partnerships with Industry (SPI) Phase II 5/10 MVA HTS Transformer Project outlines problems encountered, lessons learned, and need for additional study before moving ahead.

Schenectady, NY – The Waukesha/SuperPower/ORNL HTS Transformer team reported on results of the Phase II 5/10 MVA Transformer Program during the July 2004 DOE Annual Peer Review in Washington, DC. Due to electrical problems reported with the cast epoxy method used to fabricate the three transformer coils or “phase sets”, the transformer was unable to be energized in Waukesha’s substation and as such the program was ranked No. 8 of the 9 device programs to report at this year’s review. Last year the project was ranked No. 3 among 6 programs. Despite the problems which led to the low overall ranking, the working relationship of the team, and its combined technical capability was rated excellent, and reviewers responded very positively to the team’s candid discussion of lessons learned from the program.

The Transformer Program team of Waukesha Electric Systems, SuperPower, Inc., and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) first began its work on HTS transformers in 1995 with the Phase I Program, consisting of development and construction of a 1 MVA, single phase demonstration HTS Transformer. This device was successfully tested at Waukesha in 1998, and subsequently the team began work on the Phase II device, a 5/10 MVA three phase Alpha Prototype HTS Transformer. It had been expected that a Phase III effort, design and construction of a Beta Prototype 30/60 MVA HTS Transformer, would follow, however, plans at this time will be focused on evaluating results of the Phase II program before moving to any Phase III effort.

The transformer team presented a Program Evaluation Report which candidly reported on test results and lessons learned. The group also indicated the intent to conduct a root cause analysis on the phase sets, with the determination to conduct follow-on R&D involving high voltage design, engineering and dielectric material investigation. This latter issue has been a generic concern for HTS device technology as it relates to maintaining an adequate electrical insulation medium under cryogenic conditions to prevent partial discharge, or worse voltage breakdown failures. This problem must be overcome to obtain commercial success.

Peer reviewers expressed their conviction that the “team has made a best effort in the unexpected results” of the testing and continued to strongly support the development of superconducting transformers, which are a key part of utility operation and “must be made available with HTS benefits.” Reviewers indicated that the types of problems encountered “are not unusual for innovative projects of this nature” and stressed that sharing of expertise and lessons learned has created a wealth of knowledge and experience to be shared with the research community and end users of the technology, one of the significant benefits intended to result from any DOE SPI project.

It was stressed that many of the device subsystems performed more than adequately and that much of the planned test program was successfully completed. Reviewers indicated that the team did an excellent job in locating damage and making repairs where possible, but recommended that steps be taken to validate the cause of the problems and that the investigation process have enough rigor to identify any further contributing factors that have not yet been identified. It was suggested that once dielectric material performance is improved and second generation wire is readily available; more rapid progress should be possible. The need to address all aspects of the cryogenic system was identified as a key to all superconducting projects, but especially for the transformer. This is due to the difficulties introduced by the use of 1st generation wire in Phases I & II of the program. In order to achieve adequate performance, operation at temperatures well below the boiling point of liquid nitrogen was required. This substantially increased the complexities of the cryogenic systems.

Glenn H. Epstein, chairman and ceo of Intermagnetics said, “Despite our inability to achieve the desired outcome for this important project, some valuable progress has been made in the area of HTS transformer technology. Lessons learned by the team in this Phase II effort will be applied in the future development program.”

Philip J. Pellegrino, president of SuperPower added, “We expect that with the pending commercialization of our 2G wire, the technology hurdles should become less steep, simplifying the cryogenics and perhaps permitting the use of LN2 as a dielectric medium. While we are deeply disappointed that we were unable to successfully test this transformer on the Waukesha grid, we are determined to get to the bottom of the root cause for the electrical failure of the phase sets and move ahead with the transformer development plan at an appropriate pace. With our partners Waukesha Electric and ORNL, we have in place a formidable team and we are determined to bring this essential device to market. It is important to note that while the outcome reported is a setback, it does not alter our business plan relative to the timing of a commercial HTS transformer product, which has been and remains a late decade introduction.”

For access to the various presentations included in the 2004 Annual DOE Peer Review, please visit the following DOE web page:

Traute F. Lehner
MarCom and Logistics Specialist
SuperPower, Inc.
Tel.: 518-346-1414 ext. 3070
Fax: 518-346-6080

Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.
SuperPower Inc. is subsidiary
of Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.
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