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Wind turbines are getting larger. Their rated power capacities are moving from the 3 MW range to 6 MW and beyond. As a result, their size and mass, which grow rapidly with power capacity, is becoming a problem in terms of capital cost, logistics and assembly. Moreover, there is a move to offshore installations. Offshore wind turbines demand higher reliability, encouraging wind turbine manufacturers to integrate into their new designs inherently more reliable direct-drive permanent magnet synchronous generators. However, today s high-power direct-drive generators are massive units that will need to become smaller to minimise costs. Here, the authors review the technological and economic benefits and limitations of direct-drive permanent magnet synchronous generators (DD-PMSGs). The authors examine the benefits and the physical and economic limitations of DD-PMSGs and consider their appropriateness as a key piece in the overall wind turbine system design. The authors look at why these generators are so big and propose a change that can lead to a more compact, more economical wind turbine nacelle.
Date of Publication: January 2012