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Gareth Hatch is a Founding Principal of Technology Metals Research, LLC. He is interested in helping people to understand the challenges associated with the growing demand for rare-earth elements [REEs] and other critical and strategic materials, and how those challenges affect market sectors... More
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  • Siemens Launches Permanent Magnet-Based Gearless Wind Turbine 4 comments
    Apr 26, 2010 12:30 AM | about stocks: EGY
    Progress in the development of commercially-viable direct drive wind turbines took a significant step forward last week, with the official launch by Siemens Energy of its SWT-3.0-101 wind turbine. This turbine has a faceplate rating of 3 MW, has no gearbox and uses a permanent magnet generator to produce electricity. What’s really interesting about this system is that according to Henrik Stiesdal, Chief Technology Officer for the Siemens WInd Power business unit, the turbine produces 25% more power than the Siemens 2.3 MW machine – but does so with less weight and only 50% of the parts. The nacelle which contains the machinery at the top of the tower, weighs just 73 tonnes. Because of its compact size, the nacelle can be transported using fairly standard vehicles.

    The new 3.0 MW direct drive permanent magnet generator wind turbine from Siemens (image courtesy of Siemens Energy)
     
    There has been much interest in the development of direct drive systems in recent years, since the elimination of the gear box theoretically makes the turbine system more reliable. What Siemens appears to have done is to take that a step further – by eliminating half of the components at the top of the tower, there is less maintenance for the service technicians to have to worry about. This is good for onshore systems, but even more valuable for wind turbines that are to be located offshore, far from land. It also means, in theory, more uptime for each turbine, thus allowing them to produce electricity over wider intervals.
     
    Siemens installed the first prototype of the SWT-3.0-101 at the beginning of December 2009 close to the town of Brande in Denmark. Siemens entered the wind energy business through the acquisition of the Danish company Bonus Energy A/S approximately five years ago, a company that had been in business since 1980, as Danregn Vindkraft. This company was a pioneer in the early days of recent interest in wind power, and was a logical acquisition for Siemens as it looked to enter the market. The Siemens Wind Power business unit is still headquartered in Brande. The permanent magnet generator is being produced by the Large Drives business unit within the Siemens Industry Sector.

    The compact nature of the nacelle for the new wind turbine from Siemens means that it is easier to transport than other systems (image courtesy of Siemens Energy) 
     
    Siemens first tested direct drive systems in the form of two 3.6 MW concept turbines in July 2008, leading to the 3.0 MW prototype installed late last year. While Siemens acknowledges that they were not the first to market with a direct drive permanent magnet generator system, the company appears to have deliberately taken its time with the development of its own systems. In a news release from late last year, Mr. Stiesdal indicated that rushing to the market with immature technology was not an option for Siemens. While the nacelle contains new technology, the blades, rotor hub, tower and controller were developed from existing products. Full commercial launch of the new turbine through serial production, is expected to commence next year, with a number of systems being installed around the world in the meantime.
     
    One comment from Siemens is worthy of note for the permanent magnet industry and its supply chain. In a promotional video that was released to coincide with the launch of the new turbine, Ernst Frendesen, Director of Global Sales and Proposals for Siemens said that the
     
    “market demand that we expect on this machine will be extremely big and therefore for a period, we think that the market demand will outweigh the production capacity.”
     
    Attempts to ascertain the specific amount of permanent magnet materials used in SWT-3.0-101 turbine design were declined by the company for reasons of confidentiality. It is clear, however, that Siemens is putting the permanent magnet industry [and indirectly, the rare earths supply chain] on notice.

    Schematic of the new 3.0 MW direct drive permanent magnet generator wind turbine from Siemens (image courtesy of Siemens Energy) 
     
    Mr. Stiesdal has kindly agreed to do an interview with me on the SWT-3.0-101 wind turbine and its direct drive, permanent magnet-based drive system, which I will post to Terra Magnetica and here once completed, along with any other developments in the area of direct drive permanent magnet generator wind turbines as they happen. 

    [last updated August 9, 2010, to correct text of Mr. Frendesen's quote from promotional video].

    Disclosure: No positions.
    Stocks: EGY
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Comments (4)
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  • Eamon Keane
    , contributor
    Comments (310) | Send Message
     
    Great article, Gareth, thanks. That thing looks slick. You're obviously an expert on magnets, but based on my research last year, it should contain between 565kg and 1,000kg NdFeB per MW. (seekingalpha.com/insta...).

     

    Last year GE acquired Scanwind to get its direct drive offshore technology also.

     

    If the world was to achieve 35GW (currently about 2GW) installed capacity of offshore wind by 2020, and all of that was direct drive, @785kg/MW, you're looking at 2,000 tons Nd wind turbine demand in 2020; or about 18% of the 2007 global production.

     

    The advantages for using NdFeB for offshore wind appear to be many. Do you think this area has the highest marginal utility for NdFeB? In this case, would Siemens outbid other sectors for the magnets?

     

    I think I asked you this before, and you said wind turbines need dysprosium? If you could ask Siemens that, that would be great, because that's probably the weakest link in their supply chain. Also, do they intend to manufacture in China to secure supplies? Would they ship the nacelles from China to the UK (which has committed itself to 30GW of offshore turbines by 2020)?
    26 Apr 2010, 04:38 AM Reply Like
  • Gareth Hatch
    , contributor
    Comments (152) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Eamon: The Switch produced a 3.5 MW turbine that used around 600 kg Nd-Fe-B / MW. I suspect that Siemens may have got the usage down to something nearer to 500 kg / MW, just because they're Siemens :-)

     

    The Global Wind Energy Council projects that in 2013, there will be approximately 56 GW of NEW turbine installations worldwide. Based on data that I have accumulated from within the wind industry, I am predicting that around 25% of that new capacity will likely use direct drive, permanent magnet generator-based turbines, or 14 GW.

     

    Assuming a figure of 600 kg Nd-Fe-B / MW, this would lead to a requirement of 8,400 tonnes of Nd-Fe-B magnet materials, or approximately 15% of the projected global production of Nd-Fe-B in 2013 of 58,000 tonnes. That amount of magnet material would require around 2,950 tonnes of neodymium oxide and around 320 tonnes of dysprosium oxide for production, based on typical temperature resistance requirements for these magnets.

     

    You raise a great question on the best use of Nd-Fe-B; I am co-authoring a paper on that very subject even as we speak. I will be happy to share the results on that, once we've done our homework.

     

    A company like Siemens buys its magnets complete and fully finished. They do not produce the magnets themselves. So while dysprosium may indeed be a potential weak link in their supply chain, I am not sure how aware they are of it.

     

    You asked some good questions which I'll be happy to put to Mr. Stiesdal when we do the interview.
    26 Apr 2010, 09:04 PM Reply Like
  • jimp
    , contributor
    Comments (710) | Send Message
     
    Any opinions on what's the best way to invest in the above?
    Lynas corp?

     

    Gareth, thanks for the excellent article.
    26 Apr 2010, 09:21 AM Reply Like
  • Gareth Hatch
    , contributor
    Comments (152) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » jimp: it depends how far back into the supply chain you wish to go. If you're interested in rare earth stocks, consider doing some due diligence on the following publicly traded companies, in alphabetical order, Alkane Resources, Arafura Resources, Avalon Rare Metals, Great Western Minerals, Greenland Minerals & Energy, Lynas, Quest Rare Minerals, Rare Element Resources, Stans Energy & Ucore Uranium. Molycorp Minerals is planning to do an IPO which will attract a lot of interest. raremetalblog.com and jackliftonreport.com are two good resources for further information on this sector.
    26 Apr 2010, 09:11 PM Reply Like
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