[Updated: 03/09/10 & 11/23/09.]
The Times Online has just published a story on a technology that apparently “has the potential to revolutionise the renewable energy industry by making wind power cheaper and more reliable and greatly increasing the efficiency of wind turbines for electricity companies.”
The driver behind the work, conducted by Dr Markus Mueller and Dr. Alasdair McDonald of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Energy Systems, is the goal of effectively eliminating the gearbox from off-shore wind turbines. Being able to achieve this would increase reliability and reduce maintenance costs, given that off-shore wind turbines are out at sea.
The researchers claim to have been able to reduce the weight of conventional direct-drive generators by up to a half, and have developed a system that is apparently simpler to assembly and manufacture. Unfortunately at this point, there appears to be little in the public domain on the new technology. I was able to find a paper presented at the 2008 European Wind Energy Conference that looks to describe the technology.
Based on this paper, it appear that the NGenTec [not “NGenTech” as originally reported by the Times] technology involves the use of a “C” shaped core generator [see Figure 1] which, according to a University of Edinburgh press release sent out on Nov 23, 2009, they’re calling C-GEN. The team used it to build a 20 kW, 100 rpm prototype. They were able to show that changing the mechanical structure of the generator led to reduce required mass while maintain rigidity and structural integrity. Building on the initial concept, the team were able to show that a generator capable of producing 100 kW, based on this design, would have a total mass of approximately 2,800 kg (6,170 lb) – less than half the 6,600 kg (14,550 lb) mass of the NorthWind 100 commercially-available wind turbine generator, which also produces 100 kW of power.
Dr. Mueller and Dr. McDonald have on the last couple of weeks formed a new company to market the device, called. The new company is chaired by Mr. Derek Shepherd, “a former managing director of Aggreko International, a Glasgow-based supplier of mainly diesel-fuelled generators.“
The Times article goes on to say that:
Derek Douglas, an entrepreneur specialising in raising finance for start-up companies, has joined NGenTech [sic] with the aim of raising £4 million to prove that a 6MW generator would work and then a further £10 million to set up an assembly and manufacturing operation.
Mr Douglas goes on to say that the technology has applications for both on- and off-shore systems. This makes sense, although there isn’t necessarily the same cost premium associated with maintenance on-shore, as there is for off-shore installations.
At the moment, NGenTech does not appear to have a Web site up and running yet. NGenTec does have a Web site, and the Institute for Energy Systems also has an extensive Web site. It shows that this group is doing extensive work in the arena of generators and electrical machines for a variety of renewable energy systems, including wind turbines, wave energy convertors, tidal current systems and the like.
From the NGenTec site:
The Company is presently raising its first round of funding of £4 million. This will enable us to develop, manufacture and build a 1 MW modular unit over the next 12 months. This 1MW modular unit will be specifically designed to form part of a 6MW generator we plan to manufacture and test the following year.
According to the University’s press release, the new company was spun out of the University by Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI), the University’s successful research and commercialisation arm, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this month. The University retains a minority stake in the new business.
The initial proof of concept work was funded by Scottish Enterprise.
I’m looking forward to seeing how these chaps progress with this project. You can read the original Times Online article here, incorrect spellings and all…