First award from £6m offshore renewables grant fund
23rd February 2017
One of the most exciting projects breaking new ground in cost-cutting and greater efficiency in offshore wind has won the first award from a new £6m grant fund.
GreenSpur Renewables has been awarded £50,000 from the SCORE fund to fuel its vision to have its low cost direct drive permanent magnet generator (DDPMG) in test on a 15 MW turbine by 2021.
The fund’s first grant panel meeting at renewables hub OrbisEnergy in Lowestoft was so impressed with the progress of the company’s ‘USP’ – using ferrites to create the magnetic field instead of expensive rare earth sources currently used – it awarded it the largest grant.
Ferrites are abundant, accessible and cheap to source, promising huge savings for the sector. Using ferrites could also eliminate the industry-wide reliance on Neodymium Iron Boron (NdFeB), the scarce and expensive rare magnet used in existing generator designs.
The cash injection will now allow GreenSpur to build a generator 25 times bigger than its original 2KW prototype, created two years ago with the help of an earlier SCORE grant.
It plans to have completed its 50KW generator by the end of the year.
Then it plans to build an optimised 250kW unit, followed quickly by a fully optimised 1MW unit, providing a stepping stone to much larger units in the 6MW to 15MW range suitable for deployment from the early 2020s onwards.
Andrew Hine, co-director of the Southend-based company, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the new SCORE grant which will take us further along with our technology road map.
“This is funding is key to enable the build of a basic 50kW direct drive permanent magnet generator using ferrites, which is 25 times bigger than our 2KW prototype unit.”
With his co-director, inventor and Hugh-Peter Kelly, a recognised international expert in electro-magnetic design with multiple patents granted internationally, they told the panel that their DDPMG provided a solution for manufacturers seeking to upscale output and accelerate growth
They are now hoping a wind turbine manufacturer will enter into a formal partnership with them to develop the technology and generator further, encouraged by the new grant.
Mr Hine said independent renewables consultants BVG Associates had confirmed the DDPMG’s 0.5% saving on LCOE (levelised cost of electricity) on a 6MW turbine after reviewing Green Spur’s data.
“The grant, to some extent, validates output of our initial Finite Element Analysis level, a model has been built by the University of Cambridge, and improves the confidence levels of future designs.
“The FEA is a mathematical computer programme that calculates what we need for a 1MW generator.
“We can put confidence in the extrapolation of the technology. The industry is looking at going to 10 MW turbines, we can use this analysis to see what we would have to do to make a bigger generator.
“By going from 2KW to 10MW with no steps between is not ideal. The 50kw machine is 25 times bigger than our machine so would be the next step.”
GreenSpur’s first SCORE grant two years ago was for the proof of concept project, Mr Hine said.
“It enabled us to conduct fundamental research on the design concept and that led to a design and a prototype design.
“This new £50,000 will enable us to build a basic unit.”
Rob Bush, SCORE project manager, said the Green Spur project was one of the most exciting “game changers” in current offshore wind research.
“Using ferrites would have a huge impact on the cost of offshore wind and the research in this project is unique. The panel was so impressed with the research so far and the potential is immense.
“It was a unanimous decision for GreenSpur to have the first award of the maximum SCORE grant of £50,000.”
SCORE (Supply Chain innovation for Offshore Renewable Energy) offers grants of up to £50,000 to help companies across England to develop new products, processes and ideas – from patenting a product to exploring concepts that offer new ways of solving problems and driving efficiency in offshore renewables
Grants are available for up to 40% of eligible costs or £50,000, whichever is the lower, with a minimum grant of £2,500.
Companies can also access up to 12hrs of subsidised business support from Nwes to help grow and develop their business.
Using ferrites as an alternative to NdFeB promised huge savings. Security of NdFeB is a major risk issue. Almost 95% of global rare earth market production originates from China and is in high demand from other powerful industries, including defence, aerospace, electrical vehicles, medical, computing and mobile phones.
GreenSpur is now planning to assemble and run the research in a bigger base, aiming to have its DDPMG in full test on a 15 MW turbine in five years.
“Where we are at the moment is not big enough to assemble the generator. We need to get in hoists and other equipment and we are about to start that.
GreenSpur’s objective at the outset was to research, design and build a direct drive permanent magnet generator to replace that could deliver comparable output at a comparable weight to geared generators.
Mr Kelly said: “I was convinced that if we could accomplish this that we would be able to deliver significant cost savings. We have achieved our initial objective and have confirmed that ferrite magnets now provide a viable alternative for direct drive permanent magnet generators!”
“Our generator has been designed for low cost, high volume manufacture and will be brought to market via strategic relationships with global manufacturing and supply chain partners.”
Winning SCORE grants had been invaluable in encouraging the confidence of private investors, Mr Hine said.
“Investors are not short of people approaching them with great ideas. You have got to have taken your ideas to a certain stage, supported by empirical evidence and operational data to say that this is something they should look at.
“Without SCORE1, we would not have been able to get the proof of concept going.
“The message to small companies is that by utilising SCORE and the advice of OrbisEnergy, the money and the support they have given has helped us to get so far.
“As an SME trying to bring an innovation to market, one of the big problems you have is getting finance in place.
We had some private investors looking at us originally. One of the things you get from them is: “Where is the grant money?” We won the SCORE grant and then attracted private investors.
“What SCORE did, from technical review to our proposal, is almost technical validation from a small investor. If OrbisEnergy gives money, from then on the idea is something that merits taking forward.”
To find out more about SCORE grants and eligibility, visit http://www.orbisenergy.co.uk/funding-grants/score-grant-funding/