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A lightweight approach for airborne wind turbine drivetrains

Jaen Sola, P. and McDonald, A. S. and Oterkus, E. (2015) A lightweight approach for airborne wind turbine drivetrains. In: European Wind Energy Association, EWEA 2015, 2015-11-17 - 2015-11-20.

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Buoyant airborne wind turbines are devices capable of harnessing stronger winds at higher altitudes and with their automated and rapidly deployable system they are suited to niche applications such as emergency power generation. Although much of the wind turbine technology for these systems is common with their ‘grounded’ cousins, an additional design limitation is the requirement for the wind turbine equipment to be lightweight. This paper concentrates on the drivetrain of the wind turbine and the different potential ways of reducing its mass. A buoyant airborne wind turbine with different types of drivetrains, going from gearless to geared systems with distinct gear ratios, has been analysed. Special attention was paid to the mass of the supporting structure of the permanent magnet electrical generator and this was minimized by utilising low density materials, such as composites, in its design. The model showed that a significant reduction in the mass of the drivetrain can be achieved in the gearless case by using materials with a higher ratio of Young’s Modulus to density for the electrical machine supporting structure. For the geared systems, mass decrease was less significant as the gearbox mass had also to be considered. Keywords: Airborne, lightweight, generator structure, composite materials