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This paper presents the electromagnetic design process and methodology for a direct drive synchronous generator for variable speed wind turbines, with an emphasis on the application of the finite element method. The finite element method has been used for fine-tuning and verifying the design, as well as for evaluating the performance characteristics. The designed 480 V, 50 kW, 80 RPM synchronous generator has been produced, installed and tested. Test results are reported in the paper.