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    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeFeb 14th 2008 edited
    About two year ago, there was a flurry of articles about the Chinese supposedly working on magnetic lveitation technology for wind turbines.

    Now the stories are back:

    Magnetic levitation is an extremely efficient system for wind energy. Here’s how it works: the vertically oriented blades of the wind turbine are suspended in the air above the base of the machine, replacing the need for ball bearings. The turbine uses “full-permanent” magnets, not electromagnets — therefore, it does not require electricty to run. The full-permanent magnet system employs neodymium (”rare earth”) magnets and there is no energy loss through friction. This also helps reduce maintenance costs and increases the lifespan of the generator.

    Maglev wind turbines have several advantages over conventional wind turbines. For instance, they’re able to use winds with starting speeds as low as 1.5 meters per second (m/s). Also, they could operate in winds exceeding 40 m/s. Currently, the largest conventional wind turbines in the world produce only five megawatts of power. However, one large maglev wind turbine could generate one gigawatt of clean power, enough to supply energy to 750,000 homes. It would also increase generation capacity by 20% over conventional wind turbines and decrease operational costs by 50%. If that isn’t enough, the maglev wind turbines will be operational for about 500 years!

    Construction began on the world’s largest production site for maglev wind turbines in central China on November 5, 2007. Zhongke Hengyuan Energy Technology has invested 400 million yuan in building this facility, which will produce maglev wind turbines with capacities ranging from 400 to 5,000 Watts.

    There are a couple of thigns that make me skeptical about this:
    - technical details are sketchy;
    - the supposed peer-reviewed articles supporting the claims are "awaiting translation into English" - just like they were two years ago.
    - the stated capacity of the first generation of mag-lev windmills are around a million times (!) lower than what they're claiming they'll deliver down the track;
    - the turbines supposedly use Neodynium permanent magnets. They're powerful but mag-lev train designers long ago gave up on that technology in favor of superconducting electromagnets.

    But they say the first production run will ship this year - so maybe it's all real and the world really will change for the better.

    Sometimes I think I'm just a credulous dope buying every promised new technology even after disappointment after disappointment.