One of the great limitations in any electrical or electronic system is resistance. Electrical resistance, measured in “Ω” or ohms, is not a constant, but dependent on temperature. As the temperature increases, resistance also increases.
When considering wind turbine generators, there are limits to the amount of electricity can be generated. The problem is that electricity also generates heat, heat increases resistance, generating more heat. Eventually, enough heat is generated to melt the generator.
In the case of wind turbines, the result is that, in order to generate more power, you have to build a larger generator that can endure the heat without destroying itself. Cooling systems help to keep temperatures within acceptable limits, and braking or clutch systems protect the generator if the wind speed gets too high.
A company in Europe, SUPRAPOWER, aims to build smaller turbines that are just as efficient as larger ones by integrating cryogenics, or superconductors, into the generators.
Cryogenics typically refer to materials at a temperature lower than -238°F. Metals subjected to such temperatures become superconductors, that is, near-zero Ω resistance. SUPRAPOWER is looking to integrate cryostats made by Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum into wind turbine generators to cool them to -423.67°F.
Superconducting generator coils would generate no heat as a result of power generation, and thus massive amounts of electricity could pass through relatively small coils. There is of course the issue of the cost, both monetary and efficiency, of implementing such a system, but the results could be spectacular, enabling wind turbines to be manufactured smaller, or increasing the power output of larger generators.