American Superconductor (Nasdaq: AMSC) is emerging as a leading player in the wind energy hardware market, particularly in China. The company’s core technologies are programmable power systems, including electronic converters, and high temperature superconductor (HTS) wires.
AMSC has quickly grown into a leading wind energy grid connection company, particularly in emerging markets. Its two main wind energy products are an inverter and soft-switch capacitor that maintains fluid voltage, and a scalable converter of wind energy into electricity accessible to the public electrical grid. In 2007 AMSC acquired Windtec and Power Quality Systems to enable further growth in the wind and power grid markets.
In fiscal 2007, 87 percent of the company’s revenue derived from wind-related products. China’s wind power capacity increased 130 percent in 2007. China’s long-term wind capacity is estimated to be 160 gigawatts, which is enormous compared to the current production rate of 4 gigawatts. While competition amongst wind turbine companies operating in China is fierce, there is a glaring absence of grid connection firms to link turbines with power grids. As such connections are AMSC’s strength, the company is tapping into this rapidly expanding market. Sinovel, a Beijing-based company, signed a $90 million contract with AMSC in March 2007 and a $450 million contract with AMSC in June 2008.
AMSC is also the world’s largest supplier of HTS wire, although this industry is still in a pre-commercial stage. HTS superconductors are used as power cables and grid surge protectors, both of which will be important in any upgrade of the U.S. power grid. Superconducting wire has much higher capacity than conventional wire and has much lower power losses in transmission, making it ideal for the much-touted “smart grid” that may be a big beneficiary of federal stimulus spending in the coming years.
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