Windtech: Direct drive - More manufacturers embrace new trend

Ever more wind turbine suppliers are focusing on direct-drive machines designed for onshore and offshore applications. One of the latest examples is from leading German automotive production technology supplier Schuler. The company has reached advanced development of its 2.7MW Schuler SDD 100 direct-drive turbine.

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A prototype featuring a 100-metre rotor diameter, optimised for medium-wind-speed inland site operation, is planned for erection this autumn for a one-year test phase. After certification, Schuler plans to produce a pilot series comprising six turbines in 2011. Full-scale production is scheduled for 2013.

The automotive industry is characterised by high volume, round-the-clock manufacturing requiring uniform product quality and trouble-free operation. Schuler says it is applying that experience to wind.

Development of complete wind turbines is part of the Schuler Group's long-term diversification strategy. Company board member Joachim Beyer says: "To tap additional business beyond the scope of the car industry and its suppliers, we began to systematically examine the wind power sector over three years ago."

Its turbines, built for class II and III wind speeds and high turbulence, feature 100-metre rotor diameter, electric individual pitch control and a custom-developed 3MW permanent-magnet air-cooled generator. This generator, from Finnish drive specialist The Switch, is fully enclosed - meaning that direct contact between the sensitive generator coils and magnets and the outside air is virtually eliminated. The generator has been optimised to function with 2.7MW full-power converters. The 0.3MW capacity difference between the generator and converters is explained by internal system losses.

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