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GreenSpur Wind has developed a rare earth-free generator it has been in development for five years. It has now passed detailed testing at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE) in Blyth, UK. Now, the company is focusing on commercializing it. Niron Magnetics is developing the world’s first manufacturing process to mass produce permanent magnets using its proprietary Clean Earth Magnet technology. It is based on iron Nitride.
The companies are developing a rare earth-free, lighter, and more efficient generator for the offshore wind market. This solution has been validated by the ORE Catapult.
Andrew Hine, GreenSpur Wind’s commercial director, stated that “Existing turbines are radial-flux generators and the current designs rely on rare earth magnets. We have an innovative and unique axial-flux design that allows for rare earth-free magnets. Our unique concept eliminates the risk associated with volatile pricing and supply chain constraints.”
The GreenSpur generator has attracted attention in the past, but there was concern about its weight. It is important to keep generator mass within the same range as existing machines. Adding weight will require more structural support which can increase the cost. GreenSpur developed a 15-MW generator wind turbine by using Niron’s “Generation 1 Clean Earth Magnet”, which has a significantly stronger magnetic performance that the ferrites used in earlier generator designs. The new generator has a remarkable 56% mass reduction based on initial results that were not optimized. The new 15-MW generator design was funded by Innovate UK. ORE Catapult reviewed the design and determined that it is capable of meeting the efficiency and mass requirements of the offshore wind market.
Andy Blackburn, chief executive of Niron Magnetics stated, “Our Clean Earth Magnet technology helps remove reliance on costly, supply-constrained rare Earth-based magnets without compromising performance.”
Device designers, manufacturers, and other users take our technology and make it work. We have demonstrated what we can do with our Generation 1 technology for wind applications by working with GreenSpur. Innovative materials and innovative design combine to create a transformative solution that could be used in the offshore market.
Tony Quinn, director of technology development at ORE Catapult, stated, “We have been working with GreenSpur Wind to support their disruptive and innovative technology for many years.”
Although there was some interest in a rare-earth-free solution, there were concerns that their generator would be too weighty. GreenSpur’s rare-earth-free magnet makes it possible to meet attractive mass and efficiency targets. This is an acceptable solution that could be considered for a next-generation turbine.
“We are currently helping GreenSpur, Niron, to present this opportunity to OEMs, developers, and strategic investors. The goal is to create an industry association with the right mix of players to bring this offering on the market. Construction is ongoing. The current generation of direct-drive generators for offshore wind turbines is powered by rare-earth magnets. China is the dominant supplier of these magnets, but there are also other rapidly-growing industries that can supply them.”
Mr. Hine concluded by saying that the rare earth magnet supply chain risk to the offshore wind sector was ‘existential’. Now, we have a way that removes this risk from the equation.