Hampton, VA--The largest adjustable speed drive and motor ever produced, shown here, recently began turning a gigantic fan that creates Mach-1-plus wind conditions in a wind tunnel at NASA's National Transonic Facility. The drive itself measures an extraordinary 30 ft long by 30 ft wide by 23 ft high; the motor is only slightly smaller.
But, unlike other breakthroughs, it wasn't coming up with the underlying technology to develop the 101 MW (135,000 hp) adjustable speed drive and motor that posed the biggest challenge. In fact, from the power electronics side, large generators in the range of 5,100 MW have already been built for some power plants.
"The core technology for the system came from ABB facilities all over the world, and it was already proven. So it was really a matter of scaling the components up, with a few minor design changes," says Hansueli Krattiger, manager of large ac drives for ABB Industrial Systems, the company that developed the system.
Finding a customer with a need for a $25 million motor is a different matter. Most applications simply don't require that kind of muscle. But ABB sees potential in the petrochemical business, process other wind tunnel applications.