Windtech: Direct drive - Avantis to roll out gear-free system

German wind market entrant Avantis Energy has set out an ambitious global expansion strategy. The company's key asset is its direct-drive wind turbine technology, developed since 2004 by both its in-house team and in close co-operation with experienced outside specialists.

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Avantis, headquartered in Hamburg, has established manufacturing joint ventures with industrial groups in all major global markets. The first of these was signed with Chinese firm Yinhe Avantis Wind Power. Others include industrial giant Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea, which signed a contract to manufacture generators more than a year ago.

Most recently EDRB in Brazil was brought on board. Additional short-term manufacturing partnerships are planned for North America and Europe.

Detlef Lange is Avantis's chief technology officer and the creator of the Avantis technology. He says the choice of a Chinese partner to kick-start the wind business is closely linked to the size of the country's wind market and its accessible project finance.

"A presence in China offers us the opportunity for building a fast track record," he says.

Another benefit is that 95% of the rare-earth materials used in the generator magnets originate from China. HHI, though, will deliver the direct-drive generators for all Avantis turbines produced worldwide.

Avantis's first turbine model, the 2.5MW AV 928, is fitted with the company's own water-cooled permanent-magnet generators and rotor blades also developed in-house. Like recent generators by competitors that feature permanent magnets, Avantis chose an inverted generator in which an outer ring with magnets, attached inside, rotates around a stator. This enables a relatively compact design and the easy integration of the water-cooling system.

The AV 928 wind turbine will serve as the basis for an expanded range of models with various power ratings and rotor sizes. A prototype was installed in the southern Chinese city of Beihai in May 2009. Avantis has started certification measurements this year.

A first batch of 80 turbines has been sold for a project in Vietnam, with several projects in the pipeline in the Asian Pacific, Latin America, North America and Europe. Serial production of an AV 928 cold weather version for use in northern China will follow, as will a 2.3MW AV 1010, with 100.6-metre rotor diameter, for low- and medium-speed wind conditions. A 3.3MW "strong wind and near shore" version is also under development.

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