U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says six projects have been selected to receive nearly $7.5 million over two years to advance next-generation designs for wind turbine drivetrains. These R&D projects will focus on reducing the cost of wind energy by increasing component reliability or redesigning drivetrains to eliminate need for some components altogether. Each project has been selected to receive up to $700,000 to conduct technology cost and readiness assessments during a six-month Phase I. Later, several will be selected for award negotiations of up to $2 million additionally each over 18 months. And the winners are:
- Advanced Magnet Lab (Palm Bay, Florida) will develop a superconducting direct-drive generator for large wind turbines. President Mark Senti says the high cost of superconducting materials and cryogenically cooling makes little sense for today’s 3-MW wind turbines. But beyond 6-MW, he says, the systems become competitive with conventional generator designs. At 10 MW, “It gives the highest power-per-weight ratio.” There’s also room for improvements. Senti says most superconducting wiring costs $400/m, but new materials of inexpensive magnesium and boron powders promise to substantially lower costs. With improvements in manufacturing and less expensive cooling, superconducting could become economical for wind turbines as small as with MW, making it ideal for both onshore and offshore markets.
- Boulder Wind Power (Boulder, Colorado) will test a permanent magnet-based direct-drive generator to validate performance and reliability of a large utility-scale turbine. Design requirements and improvements will also be documented for turbines up to 10 MW and for turbines deployed offshore.
- Clipper Windpower (Carpinteria, California) will develop and test a drivetrain design that increases serviceability over conventional gearboxes and is scalable to large capacity turbines.
- Dehlsen Associates LLC (Santa Barbara, California) will design and test components for a direct-drive concept. The design may also be applicable to ocean-power devices.
- GE Global Research (Niskayuna, New York) will design and perform component testing for a 10 MW direct-drive generator using low-temperature superconductivity.
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colorado) will improve and test a hybrid design that combines advantages of geared and direct-drives through an improved single-stage gearbox and a non-permanent magnet generator which reduces need for rare earth materials. The technology will be scalable to 10 MW, and may be used to retrofit currently deployed 1.5-MW turbines.
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