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  • Posted on 3rd August 2017 in the categories: Energy, Magnetics, Renewable

    The Critical Role of Magnets In Wind Turbines

    Offshore wind farm

    How important is green energy?

    Wind energy has become one of the most viable clean energy sources on the planet. Over the years, most of our electricity has come from coal, oil, and other fossil fuels. However, creating energy from these resources takes a severe toll on our environment, contaminating our air, land, and water. This realisation has made many turn to green energy as a solution. Therefore, renewable energy is extremely important for many reasons, including:

    • Positive environmental impact
    • Jobs and other economic benefits
    • Improved public health
    • A vast and inexhaustible energy supply
    • A more reliable and resilient energy system

    Introducing wind turbines

    Today’s wind turbines differ greatly from the earlier versions that date back to 1854. Today, one wind turbine alone can power between 225 to 300 households. However, with more powerful and consistent wind at an offshore wind farm, the number could increase to over 400 homes. With that in mind, one might ask how do wind turbines work, and what role do permanent magnets play?

    How wind turbines work

    Regarded as a highly complex piece of machinery, wind turbines are becoming increasing popular in the renewable energy sector. In addition, each part of the turbine plays an important role in how it functions and captures wind energy. In the simplest form, how wind turbines work is that:

    • Strong winds turn the blades
    • The blades of the fan are connected to a main channel in the centre
    • The generator connected to that shaft converts that motion into electricity

    The diagram below gives an indication as to how a wind turbine works and the parts that make it happen:

    Diagram outlining the various parts in a wind turbine and how they all work together

    Permanent magnets in wind turbines

    In every wind turbine and generator, you will find one or more incredibly strong permanent magnet. Additionally, the development of new, innovative technologies over recent years have inspired engineers to utilise permanent magnet generator (PMG) systems in wind turbines. Therefore, this has eliminated the need for gearboxes, proving permanent magnets systems to be more cost-efficient, reliable and low-maintenance. Instead of needing electricity to emit a magnetic field, large neodymium magnets are used to produce their own. Moreover, this has eliminated the need for parts used in previous generators, while decreasing the wind speed required to produce energy.

    Why rare earth magnets?

    The wind turbine industry prefers rare earth magnets for three main reasons:

    • Permanent magnet generators do not need an external power source to initiate a magnetic field
    • The self-excitation also means a bank of batteries or capacitors for other functions can be smaller
    • The design reduces electrical losses

    Additionally, due to the high-energy density permanent magnet generators offer, some weight associated with copper windings are eliminated along with problems of corrupting insulation and shorting.

    How do the magnets work?

    The permanent magnet generator is based on the premise that the use of electromagnetic forces produces electricity. It’s favourable among many engineers today due to its rather cheap nature and cost-effective power generation capacity.

    To produce an output, wind-powered generators use wind, solar-powered generators use the sun’s heat and water-powered turbines need a continuous flow of water to work. However, magnetically-powered generators don’t require major inputs to produce its output. This is because the magnets within the generator use electromagnetic fields to convert magnetic energy to electricity. The below diagram provides a simpler means of explaining how the magnets work inside the generator.

    How do the magnets work?

    Moving forward with the industry

    The ever-growing demand for cleaner energies has caused the wind power industry to blossom in the last few years. With their ability to greatly enhance the conversion of wind power to electricity, permanent magnets have become an essential component in the design of wind turbine generators.

    Moreover, permanent magnets will continue to be a crucial component in this industry, which is why selecting the most adequate magnetic material, grade, and the correct manufacturing process is critical for optimum performance. Goudsmit UK can accompany you from the design, manufacture, and assembly right through to the logistics of these permanent magnet assemblies.

    Goudsmit UK

    Contact us today for more information at info@goudsmit.co.uk or on +44 (0) 2890 271 001.

    For more information download our products and services brochure.

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