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Direct Drive the Future of Wind Energy?


The EWEA Annual Event, formerly known as EWEC, took place between 14 and 17 March in Brussels, Belgium. The conference consisted of 40 sessions featuring over 200 speakers and more than 300 specialised poster presentations. The EWEA annual exhibition in 2011 was the largest ever with regards to the number of exhibitors (about 400 different companies). The organisers expected 10,000 visitors, but after four days 8,600 had turned up. At the exhibition floor it also looked slower than other years. This was maybe due to the fact that the exhibitors were spread out in three big halls and the conference was not that close to the exhibition. Nevertheless, the event was successful.

{access view=!registered}Only logged in users can view the full text of the article.{/access}{access view=registered}Such exhibitions and conferences are ideal to pick up trends and see where the industry is going. Most companies, and especially the turbine manufacturers, wait till such events to introduce new products. And this year the trend is absolutely direct drive.
Enercon has been the market leader for years with its direct drive technology. In January the company installed the world’s most powerful direct drive turbine, the E-126, with a capacity of 7.5MW. But it looks as if the competition is following. At least four new direct drive turbines were introduced or announced during EWEA in Brussels.

Siemens Energy has launched a new direct drive gearless wind turbine for low to moderate wind speeds. The core feature of the new SWT-2.3-113 wind turbine is a drive concept with a compact permanent magnet generator. The turbine has a capacity of 2.3MW and a rotor diameter of 113 metres. A prototype of the new machine was installed in the Netherlands in March.

Furthermore, GE has introduced its 4.1-113 wind turbine, a 4MW class direct drive machine that is optimised for offshore use. GE has signed a contract to supply a 4.1-113 wind turbine, along with associated services, to Göteborg Energi for installation in the harbour of Gothenburg, Sweden, in the second half of 2011. The 4.1-113 design builds on the evolution of the 3.5MW direct drive turbine designed by ScanWind, which was acquired by GE in 2009.

Also, Northern Power Systems, Inc. has announced the introduction of its Northern Power 2.3 permanent magnet direct drive (PM/DD) wind turbine designed for the onshore utility wind market. The company recently successfully installed and commissioned its first prototype in McBain, Michigan, USA, and at the end of 2011 the turbine will be commercially available.

Then, on the last day of the event, Alstom and Converteam announced they are collaborating on a direct drive permanent magnet generator (DD/PMG) for a wind turbine. As a first step Converteam will equip Alstom’s two 6MW offshore wind turbine prototypes. The turbine has been developed for the wind conditions encountered in most offshore locations in Europe, the USA and the rest of the world. Two prototypes will be installed in 2011 and 2012, a pre-series in 2013 (the final rollout step before full commercialisation), and series production is planned for 2014.

And, I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be more manufacturers following. We will certainly keep you updated.

Enjoy reading,

Floris Siteur
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