Beyond 15 MW: A cost of energy perspective on the next generation of drivetrain technologies for offshore wind turbines

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Leading wind turbine manufacturers are racing to build larger and more powerful offshore machines. Drivetrain configurations often use a permanent-magnet synchronous generator (PMSG), in either a direct-drive configuration or coupled to a gearbox. With increasing demand for critical rare-earth magnets, new generator technologies are emerging to ensure a stable and secure supply chain. We evaluate three different topologies of radial flux synchronous generators employing high field magnets with reduced or no rare-earth content: a direct-drive interior PMSG (DD-IPMSG), a geared drivetrain combining a medium speed gearbox with a PMSG (MS-PMSG), and a direct-drive low-temperature superconducting generator (DD-LTSG). We develop a conceptual design module for each of these technologies within a larger framework for full turbine design. This provides the fairest comparison between technologies at nominal power ratings from 15–25 MW, which represent the next generation of offshore wind turbines. The analyses show that if operational expenditures (OpEx) are constant across the technologies, MS-PMSG results in the lowest LCOE with reductions of up to 7% relative to DD-IPMSG. DD-LTSG also yields lower LCOE values by 2%–3% for fixed-bottom turbines and 3%–5% with a floating platform. However, results are sensitive to OpEx assumptions, with a mere 10% increase causing the conclusions to shift.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number121272
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s)

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-84919


  • Direct drive
  • Levelized cost of energy
  • Medium speed
  • Offshore wind
  • Permanent magnet synchronous generator
  • Superconducting generator


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