Twistact Techno-Economic Analysis for Wind Turbine Applications

Katherine Dykes, Latha Sethuraman, Brian Naughton, Jeffery Koplow, Justin Vanness, Michael Maness

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This report is the final deliverable for a techno-economic analysis of the Sandia National Laboratories-developed Twistact rotary electrical conductor. The U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office supported a team of researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to evaluate the potential of the Twistact technology to serve as a viable replacement to rare-earth materials used in permanent-magnet direct-drive wind turbine generators. This report compares three detailed generator models, two as baseline technologies and a third incorporating the Twistact technology. These models are then used to calculate the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for three comparable offshore wind plants using the three generator topologies. The National Renewable Energy Laboratorys techno-economic analysis indicates that Twistact technology can be used to design low-maintenance, brush-free, and wire-wound (instead of rare-earth-element (REE) permanent-magnet), direct-drive wind turbine generators without a significant change in LCOE and generation efficiency. Twistact technology acts as a hedge against sources of uncertain costs for direct-drive generators. On the one hand, for permanent-magnet direct-drive (PMDD) generators, the long-term price of REEs may increase due to increases in future demand, from electric vehicles and other technologies, whereas the supply remains limited and geographically concentrated. The potential higher prices in the future adversely affect the cost competitiveness of PMDD generators and may thwart industry investment in the development of the technology for wind turbine applications. Twistact technology can eliminate industry risk around the uncertainty of REE price and availability. Traditional wire-wound direct-drive generators experience reliability issues and higher maintenance costs because of the wear on the contact brushes necessary for field excitation. The brushes experience significant wear and require regular replacement over the lifetime of operation (on the order of a year or potentially less time). For offshore wind applications, the focus of this study, maintenance costs are higher than typical land-based systems due to the added time it often requires to access the site for repairs. Thus, eliminating the need for regular brush replacements reduces the uncertain costs and energy production losses associated with maintenance and replacement of contact brushes. Further, Twistact has a relatively negligible impact on LCOE but hedges risks associated with the current dominant designs for direct-drive generators for PMDD REE price volatility and wire-wound generator contact brush reliability. A final section looks at the overall supply chain of REEs considering the supply-side and demand-side drivers that encourage the risk of depending on these materials to support future deployment of not only wind energy but other industries as well.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages58
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Published by Sandia National Laboratories

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-68181


  • generator design
  • rare-earth magnets
  • Twistact
  • wind energy
  • wind system modeling
  • wind turbine


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