US DOE Sets Aside USD 8 Million for Turbine Drivetrain Tech

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four projects totaling up to USD 8 million to develop next-generation drivetrain technologies to facilitate the growth of tall offshore and onshore wind turbines.

The projects are expected to develop more efficient, smaller, and lighter-weight generators that will lower costs and make wind power more affordable.

Each of the chosen projects will receive up to USD 400,000 to design a turbine generator that can be scaled up to at least 10MW to capitalize on larger, more powerful wind turbines, especially those deployed offshore.

Two projects are developing direct drive permanent magnet generator designs, said to be smaller, lighter, less expensive, more reliable and efficient, and use less rare earth content than conventional gearbox designs.

ABB will develop a lightweight double stator generator that uses an advanced magnet cooling system suitable for both geared and direct drive machines, scalable up to 15MW, and WEG Energy Corporation will develop a high-efficiency permanent magnet direct drive lightweight generator to integrate into its existing platform.

A further two projects will develop superconducting generators, said to make a stronger magnetic field using superconducting windings, resulting in size and mass reduction over conventional generators and reducing the need for foreign-sourced rare earth materials.

American Superconductor Corporation will develop a high-efficiency lightweight generator that incorporates high-temperature superconductor (HTS) materials to replace permanent magnets in the generator rotor, potentially reducing size and weight by 50%.

General Electric (GE) Research will develop a high-efficiency ultra-light low temperature superconducting (LTS) generator, leveraging innovations from its magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) business. The generator will be tailored for offshore wind and scalable beyond 12MW.

If successful, the research projects are expected to result in designs up to 50% smaller and lighter while reducing the cost of wind generation by 10–25%.

DOE is also set to select one project to receive up to USD 6.4 million to build and test a scaled prototype of the generator on a wind turbine once the projects complete the design and analysis phase.