GreenSpur, Niron develop rare-earth-free solution


GreenSpur Wind and Niron Magnetics announced a new rare-earth-free generation solution for the offshore wind market. The findings have been verified by ORE Catapult, a U.K.-technology innovation and research center for offshore renewable energy.

“Existing turbines use radial-flux generators, and the current designs are reliant on rare-earth magnets,” said Andrew Hine, commercial director at GreenSpur Wind. “However, we employ a unique and highly innovative axial-flux architecture that makes the use of rare-earth free magnets possible.”

GreenSpur Wind and Niron Magnetics collaborated on a rare-earth free generation solution for the offshore wind market. (Courtesy: GreenSpur Wind)

Past iterations of the GreenSpur generator had attracted interest, but there were concerns about its mass. Keeping generator mass within the same range as existing machines is important, as adding weight requires more structural support, which increases cost. By designing with Niron’s Generation 1 Clean Earth Magnet, which offers stronger magnetic performance than the ferrites used in its earlier generator designs, GreenSpur developed a new 15-MW generator. Based upon initial non-optimized results, the new generator delivers a significant 56-percent reduction in mass.

“Our Clean Earth Magnet technology helps eliminate reliance on expensive, supply-constrained, rare-earth-based magnets, without compromising on performance,” said Andy Blackburn, CEO of Niron Magnetics. “Device designers and manufacturers take our technology and realize its impact. By working with GreenSpur, we have been able to demonstrate what can be achieved with our Generation 1 technology in wind applications, with innovative materials and innovative device design coming together to enable a potentially transformative solution for the offshore market.”

Supported by an Innovate U.K. grant, the new 15-MW generator design was reviewed by ORE Catapult, the U.K.’s leading technology innovation and research center for offshore renewable energy. The review confirmed that GreenSpur’s 15MW generator design is now able to meet the mass and efficiency targets required by the market.

“We have worked with GreenSpur in support of their hugely innovative and disruptive technology for several years,” said Tony Quinn, director of Technology Development at ORE Catapult. “Although there was interest in a rare-earth-free solution, there were concerns that their generator would be too heavy. However, with Niron’s novel rare-earth-free magnet, GreenSpur is able to show attractive mass and efficiency targets and a credible solution for consideration within a next generation turbine. We are now helping GreenSpur and Niron to present this opportunity to OEMs, developers, and strategic investors. The aim is to create an industry consortium with the right combination of players to bring this offering to market.”

“The risk that the rare-earth magnet supply chain poses to international offshore wind is existential,” Hine said. “For the first time, we have a path that takes this risk out of the equation.”

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