In the pursuit of a sustainable future, the UK Government has set ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions and enhance energy security. The offshore wind sector plays a crucial role in achieving these objectives, with a 2030 target of 50GW. However, spiralling costs and the reliance on the most vulnerable of all critical materials, Rare Earth magnets in wind turbine generators poses a significant risk, especially with global supply shortages predicted from the mid-2020s. Enter GreenSpur, a subsidiary of Time To ACT, spearheading a groundbreaking project to revolutionise wind energy by eliminating Rare Earth risk and lowering cost through innovative design and manufacturing techniques.
Innovation in Wind Turbine Technology:
Traditional wind turbine generators lean heavily on Rare Earth magnets, almost only sourced from China. Recognising the vulnerability in this supply chain, GreenSpur has devised a revolutionary Permanent Magnet Generator (PMG) design. By creating a generator topology that can substitute high performance Neodymium magnets for lower strength more sustainable magnets. GreenSpur is not just solving a problem but setting the stage for a paradigm shift in wind turbine technology. The aim? To create a UK supply chain capable of manufacturing generators from low kW to 20MW+ for renewable energy applications.
Project Scope and Collaboration:
With a grant from the UK Government, GreenSpur has joined forces with key partners – Hirst Magnetic Instruments, B.C. Electrical Techniques (BCET), and the University of Birmingham. Together, they are working to scale up innovative manufacturing techniques and develop flexible tooling. This collaborative effort aims to create flexible tooling capable of winding aluminium coils and magnetising bespoke magnet arrangements for generators ranging from 30kW to 1MW, laying the foundation for a robust UK supply chain.
Addressing the Rare Earth Challenge:
The reliance on Rare Earth magnets, of which 95% coming from China, pose a critical risk to the global energy transition, especially the wind turbine market. GreenSpur’s solution not only eliminates this risk but aligns seamlessly with the broader goal of achieving Net Zero. By reshaping the UK’s PEMD supply chain (power electronics, machines, and drives), this project contributes significantly to a more sustainable and resilient energy future.
Approach and Innovation:
GreenSpur’s approach involves identifying and overcoming manufacturing bottlenecks, specifically in-situ magnetisation and coil winding. Through collaboration, the project aims to develop flexible tooling that can adapt to generators of varying sizes and configurations, addressing scalability challenges in the industry.
Team and Resources:
Backed by a skilled team and collaborative partners, including Hirst, BCET, and the University of Birmingham, GreenSpur is well-positioned for success. The project leverages industrial machines, quality control methods, and the University’s expertise in materials and magnetic characterisation.
Supply Chain Awareness and Market Impact:
Recognising the scarcity of suppliers in the UK and Europe, GreenSpur aims to develop a robust supply chain network. The project’s impact extends beyond the UK, with potential expansion into offshore wind and tidal energy markets. The flexible tooling developed promises to streamline manufacturing, making GreenSpur’s generators more accessible and cost-effective.
Outcomes and Route to Market:
Beyond flexible tooling, GreenSpur continue to advance its manufacturing capability, actively engaging with strategic supply chain partners, such as generator manufacturers, magnet supply chain and OEMs to support the demonstration of industrial scalability. GreenSpur understands collaboration is key to innovation in the supply chain. Working with partners, GreenSpur are delivering the world’s first Rare Earth-free PMG for wind turbines, both at kW and multi-MW scale.
Impact on the UK PEMD Supply Chain:
The transformative impact of this project on the UK PEMD supply chain cannot be overstated. GreenSpur’s aim is to position the UK as a global leader in Rare Earth-free generator technology, offering economic benefits, job creation, and a re-shoring opportunity. Aligning with the UK Government’s Net Zero strategy, this project has the potential to drive clean economic growth and reduce environmental impact.
GreenSpur’s innovative project emerges as a beacon of hope in the UK’s journey to revolutionise the wind energy sector. By eliminating Rare Earth risk, developing flexible manufacturing tools, and fostering collaborations within the supply chain, GreenSpur is poised to redefine the landscape of wind turbine technology. The successful implementation of this project holds the potential to not only reshape the UK’s energy future but to make it a global leader in Rare Earth-free generators. The winds of change are blowing, and GreenSpur is at the forefront, steering the course towards a cleaner, more sustainable tomorrow.
To discover more about how GreenSpur can help you, contact us today.