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Transformer type under construction at Canterbury

New transformer type under construction at Canterbury

New Zealand's first high temperature superconducting transformer (HTST) is now being assembled at the University of Canterbury.

The device is the result of collaboration between the University and Meridian Energy Ltd. It uses ceramic-based superconducting material immersed in liquid nitrogen and is designed to replace traditional oil-filled machines, with weight and transport advantages.

The superconductor follows on from the University's development of a resonating high voltage transformer (RHV Transformer) for use in testing large power generators. The transformer needed to be portable enough to be moved around the country for testing at various power stations. It has been extensively used at Manapouri underground power station.

"What is exciting about this technology is that it offers significant weight, and therefore transportation, advantages over commercially available units," said Professor Pat Bodger who heads the development team. The total crated weight of the RHV Transformer is under half a tonne, compared with more than 6.5 tonnes for other commercial models.

"Moreover, the construction does not require the use of liquid dielectric oil which significantly reduces air-freight issues and costs, as well as environmental and safety risks" he added.

A Christchurch company, CanterburyTX, has been formed to develop the technology further, while local companies, Viva and PB Power (NZ) Ltd, are supplying electrical and mechanical engineering expertise. The technology is jointly owned by Canterprise Ltd, the inventors (Professor Bodger, Dr Wade Enright, Matthew O'Neill and Rick Liew), and Meridian Energy.

The HTST will undergo its initial performance testing during March 2004.

"The global power transformer market is worth billions of dollars," Professor Bodger said. "Following the completion of the first transformer, the objective is to begin constructing a superconducting power transformer that can be connected to the distribution network, in the second half of 2004."

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