These projects will develop more efficient, smaller, and lighter-weight generators that will lower costs and make wind power more affordable.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four projects totaling up to $8 million in investment from the department to develop next-generation wind turbine drivetrain technologies that will facilitate the continued growth of wind turbines for both land-based tall wind and offshore applications.
Each of the selected projects will receive up to $400,000 to design a wind turbine generator that can be scaled up to at least 10 megawatts to capitalise on the trend of larger, more powerful wind turbines, especially for offshore applications.
Two projects are developing “direct drive” permanent magnet generator designs that are smaller, lighter, less expensive, more reliable, more efficient, and use less rare earth content than conventional gearbox designs.
1. ABB Inc. of Raleigh, North Carolina will develop a lightweight double stator generator that uses an innovative advanced magnet cooling system suitable for both geared and direct drive machines, scalable up to 15 megawatts (MW).
2. WEG Energy Corporation of Duluth, Georgia will develop a high-efficiency permanent magnet direct drive lightweight generator to integrate into its existing platform.
Two projects will develop superconducting generators, which make a much stronger magnetic field using superconducting windings. This results in significant size and mass reduction over conventional generators and significantly reduces the need for foreign-sourced rare earth materials.
1. American Superconductor Corporation of Ayer, Massachusetts will develop a high-efficiency lightweight wind turbine generator that incorporates high-temperature superconductor (HTS) materials to replace permanent magnets in the generator rotor, potentially reducing size and weight by 50%.
2. General Electric (GE) Research of Niskayuna, New York will develop a high-efficiency ultra-light low temperature superconducting (LTS) generator, leveraging innovations from GE’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) business. The generator will be tailored for offshore wind and scalable beyond 12 MW.
If successful, these four research projects will result in designs up to 50% smaller and lighter while reducing the cost of wind generation by 10–25%. After these four projects complete a design and analysis phase, DOE will select one project to receive up to $6.4 million to build and test a scaled prototype of their generator on a wind turbine.