DOE Awards Funds To Help Develop Next-Generation Wind Turbines

Six projects in four states – California, Colorado, Florida and New York – have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive approximately $7.5 million over two years to advance next-generation designs for wind turbine drivetrains.

‘Developing innovative drivetrain technologies will allow U.S. manufacturers to build larger, more cost-effective, and more efficient wind turbines than any in operation today,’ says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. ‘The projects announced today will help the United States to lead the global wind energy industry in this critical technology area, diversify our domestic energy portfolio and create new jobs for American workers.’

These early research and development (R&D) projects will focus on reducing the cost of wind energy by increasing component reliability or redesigning drivetrains to eliminate the need for some components altogether.

Other projects receiving funding will work to increase the amount of energy drivetrains can produce or help develop drivetrain designs that minimize the use of rare earth materials.

Each project has been selected to receive up to $700,000 to conduct technology cost and readiness assessments during Phase I. Following the six-month Phase I funding period, several of the projects will be selected for award negotiations of up to an additional $2 million each over 18 months. Projects selected for Phase II awards will use the funding to conduct performance tests of the specific drivetrain components.

Award recipients include the following:

– Advanced Magnet Lab will develop a superconducting direct-drive generator for large wind turbines. The project will employ a new technology for the drivetrain coil configuration to address technical challenges of large torque electric machines.

– Boulder Wind Power will test a permanent magnet direct-drive generator to validate performance and reliability of a large utility-scale turbine. Design requirements and optimization will also be documented for turbines up to 10 MW and for turbines deployed in offshore applications.

– Clipper Windpower will develop and test a drivetrain using a chain drive to replace the gearbox. This proposed design enables increased serviceability over conventional gearboxes and is scalable to large-capacity turbines.

– Dehlsen Associates LLC will design and test components of a direct-drive concept. The proposed drivetrain configuration eliminates the need for gearboxes, power electronics, transformers and rare earth materials. The design may also be applicable to marine hydrokinetic – or ocean power – devices.

– GE Global Research will design and perform component testing for a 10 MW direct-drive generator employing low-temperature superconductivity technology. The proposed generator employs a stationary superconducting component design that reduces the risk of fluid leakage.

– The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will optimize and test a hybrid design that combines the advantages of geared and direct-drive generators through an improved single-stage gearbox and a non-permanent magnet generator that reduces the need for rare earth materials. The technology developed will be scalable to 10 MW and may be used to retrofit currently deployed 1.5 MW turbines.

The awards are being issued through the DOE's Wind and Water Power Program, which works to research, test, develop and deploy innovative wind energy technologies.

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