United Kingdom

United Kingdom

'World's most powerful iron-based generator' to begin testing

Electromagnetic engineering firm GreenSpur Renewables is to begin testing what it claims is the world's most powerful ferrite-based direct-drive permanent magnet generator, but questions over funding remain.

GreenSpur's 250kW machine (above) has a diameter of 3.9 metres and an axial length of 26 centimetres
GreenSpur's 250kW machine (above) has a diameter of 3.9 metres and an axial length of 26 centimetres

Four 250kW generators could be stacked together for a combined capacity of 1MW, the UK company stated.

Its latest generator was assembled in the north-east of England and is now at ORE Catapult’s centre in Blyth for system testing "over the next few months".

GreenSpur claims that using ferrite — an iron-based waste product of steel fabrication — is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than using the rare-earth elements (REEs) typically used by wind turbine manufacturers.

Turbine manufacturers — as well as electric vehicle and battery producers — traditionally use REEs in magnets.

However, extracting REEs from surrounding deposits can cause serious pollution, and can be an energy- and water-intensive process.

REEs also face significant price volatility as demand rises for EVs and battery storage.

China dominates the supply of such materials, and the country’s ongoing trade war with the US could also stop manufacturers from sourcing REEs, Hine said.

Meanwhile, ferrite could cut Capex costs of manufacturing wind turbine generators by as much as a third, GreenSpur claimed. And unlike REEs, as a waste product of steel, ferrite does not need to be mined.

GreenSpur had tested a three-module 75kW generator at ORE Catapult’s facility in Blyth in 2017.

It then signed an agreement with ORE Catapult and Warwick Manufacturing Group to build a single-stage 250kW generator, which would be part of a four-stage 1MW design.

The 1MW project is supported by a £1.25 million (€1.4 million) grant from the UK government.

This amount will cover one 250kW unit, and GreenSpur is looking for further funding, commercial director Andrew Hine told Windpower Monthly.

The company plans to design more powerful single-stage units, ramping up to a 2MW for the onshore sector and 4MW for offshore.

These units could then be stacked together to build more powerful generators, Hine explained.

He added GreenSpur would consider a joint venture with a turbine manufacturer or outside investment to secure funding for these larger, more expensive units.

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