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Wind power embraces the circuit board design, via a startup

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Wind turbines seem to be on steroids these days — they’re getting bulkier and heavier, and that makes them more expensive to ship and more complex to assemble. But a startup called Boulder Wind Turbines says it has figured out a new way to lighten the load.

The Colorado company, founded in 2009, has engineered a generator that incorporates a circuit board design as one of its main components. A generator’s motor is made up of a rotating component called the rotor and a stationary part called the stator. In a typical generator today, both the rotor and the stator are made with iron wrapped with copper coils to create the magnetic field for producing mechanical energy, which will then be converted to electricity.

But what Boulder Wind Power has done is to engineer a different kind of stator by printing copper wires onto fiber glass and laminating layers of fiber glass together to create a stator that looks, and works, like a printed circuit board, said Andy Cukurs, the startup’s CEO. This design doesn’t use iron, but it does add a magnet to the whole generator to create that magnetic field. In the end, what  you get is a stator sandwiched between the magnet-lined rotor.

The printed circuit board design, Cukurs said, is “light weight, and it translates into cost savings because you don’t have to build a heavy foundation and tower. The wind industry uses weight as a proxy for cost.”

For example, a Boulder Wind Power generator for a 3 MW turbine would weight 40 percent less than more common generators, Cukurs said. If a wind tower weighs 200 metric tons, then the use of the startup’s generator can cut the weight by 6-10 metric tons, he added.

Boulder Wind Power 1

Next-gen magnets

The use of the magnets also sets the company’s technology apart. In fact, the startup’s generator design belongs to a class of technology called “direct drive permanent magnet,” which emerged in recent years to replace designs that create heavier and less efficient or reliable wind turbines. Major wind turbine makers such as Siemens and GE all have developed generators using direct-drive permanent magnets. But whether the technology can really deliver the savings remains a big debate.

The startup has built a 3 MW generator to show how its technology works. It’s close to signing its first deal to create a prototype for a customer, who will give the equipment a whirl and decide if it wants to place an order for more. Cukurs declined to name this potential customer. If all goes well with the deal, Boulder Wind Power will work on delivering the prototype by the end of 2013 or early 2014. Its first revenues could come in 2015.

The startup doesn’t plan to make and sell generators, however. Instead, it plans to make money mostly by licensing its technology.  This approach takes away the pressure of having to raise lots of money to build factories or dealing with multiple manufacturers to source various components. But the company does plan to sell the stators and will hire a manufacturer to make them.

But whether the direct-drive permanent magnet technology can really deliver on its technical promises remains a big debate. Wind turbine makers began introducing permanent generators in 2006, but this type of generators isn’t widely used, according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Permanent magnets made using rare earth elements are more powerful and efficient than those made with non-rare earth materials, but the use of rare earth also increases the costs. Most of the rare earth elements are produced in China, which curbed their exports in the past and caused a spike in their prices. Efforts to produce rare earth in other parts of the world have been underway in countries such as Malaysia and the U.S. by companies such as Colorado-based Molycorp.

Boulder Wind Power’s technology uses neodymium, a rare earth element, and it counts Molycorp as an investor. Cukurs said high pricing was an obstacle that prevented the wider adoption of permanent magnets in the past, but the prices have come down. Meanwhile, some companies are developing better-performing generators that won’t need rare earth at all.

Boulder Wind Power has raised $46.5 million in equity total from investors that also included New Enterprise Associates, and is looking at raising another round in 2014 if not sooner.

13 Responses to “Wind power embraces the circuit board design, via a startup”

  1. Keef Wivaneff

    This gets crazier and crazier.
    How could ANYBODY be dumb enough to give these guys any money?

    Let’s have a look at their pedigree!
    1812 Boxelder Street
    Louisville, CO 80027 (map)
    Phone: 303.630.1400
    Fax: 303.630.1500

    Test Facility
    34361 Innovation Drive
    Ronan, MT 59864

    Google maps can’t find any such address as Innovation Drive but a Google search did show up an interesting fact.

    They have a close neighbour in “Innovation Drive”

    Jore Corporation
    34837 Innovation
    Ronan, MT 59864-8796

    Oh dear! they went down the plughole…

    Sale of Jore Corp. becomes done deal

    April 25, 2002
    Pasco, Wash., company finalizes $32.9 million purchase of Ronan toolmaker

    RONAN – The long saga of the Jore Corp. bankruptcy came to an end Wednesday afternoon in the offices of a Seattle law firm. Now, the company foresees a “very bright” future as it continues to manufacture tool accessories.

    By JOHN STROMNES of the Missoulian

    The sale of the Ronan business was finalized 10 days after the company was purchased for $32.9 million at a bankruptcy auction in Missoula, and two days after the final closure date was approved by the bankruptcy court.

    A spokesman for the new owner, Western Mortgage and Realty Co. of Pasco, Wash., said the firm will continue to be called Jore Corp., since the rights to the name were bought as part of the purchase agreement. Lawyers had referred to it as “New Jore” earlier in court proceedings.

    Never mind, plenty of new opportunities.

    So Where did the Jore family go next?
    A quick change of name and VOILA!

    CORE Outdoor Power is comprised of a team experienced in growing both public and private businesses. The team has significant experience in technology and product development, sales and marketing, and finance, with comprehensive backgrounds in the power products industry. Following are the biographies of the management team and directors:
    Matthew B. Jore, Chairman, CEO
    Mr. Jore has over 20 years experience in the retail power tool markets including as founder, CEO and Chairman of Jore Corporation, an innovative power tool accessories company based in Ronan, Montana. Under the guidance of Mr. Jore, annual revenues grew steadily to $45 million by the end of 1998. After acquiring the Stanley brand under license from The Stanley Works (NYSE: SWK), Mr. Jore led Jore Corporation through a successful public offering in September of 1999 for $46M in capital. Sales continued to grow, reaching $54 million in 2000. In 2003, Mr. Jore founded Core Motion, Inc., to develop and commercialize COREâ„¢ technology. Core Motion, Inc. has since captured significant interest in several key market segments and has executed license agreements in the oil and gas and military markets. Mr. Jore founded OPE, Inc. (dba CORE Outdoor Power) and facilitated a license from Core Motion, Inc, for the specific purpose of utilizing his retail relationships and power tool associates to commercialize COREâ„¢ technology in the outdoor power equipment arena.
    Lincoln Jore, President
    Mr. Jore has spent the past six years in the development of the CORE™ technology. As a co-inventor, his in-depth knowledge of the CORE™ system adds tremendous value to the ongoing efforts to expand the use of the technology beyond hand-held and portable power products. Lincoln’s knowledge of control electronics and technical understanding have allowed for the creation of programming techniques that lead to the optimization of power management in the power-hungry world of outdoor products. In addition, Mr. Jore’s primary role lies in the set-up and oversight of the basic company functions including operations, sales, and the mass-production of CORE™ motors and CORE™-powered products.
    Michael W. Jore; Supply Chain, US
    Mr. Jore has spent most of his 20 year career specializing in supply-side business transactions, purchasing, and logistics. He spent ten years as Vice President – Operations of Jore Corporation, where numerous vendor relationships were established. Over the past five years, Mr. Jore has traveled extensively throughout the United States and Asia, securing vendor relationships and setting up supply bases to assist in bringing CORE™ technology to a cost-effective state and to facilitate the production of certain components, such as magnets, in Asia.

    Boulder Wind Power?
    The gangs all here!
    Matt Jore
    BWP Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer; Core Motion, Inc.

    Mr. Jore has over 25 years of experience in power tool and industrial markets. Matt co-founded Boulder Wind Power to leverage in the wind industry a unique electric motor and generator design he co-invented at Core Motion, Inc. He is currently CEO of Core Motion, a technology development firm which partners with product companies to develop and deliver industrial and consumer products that leverage the proprietary Core design.

    Prior to founding Core Motion, Matt was founder, CEO and Chairman of Jore Corporation, an innovative power tool product company based in Ronan, Montana. Under his leadership Jore Corporation grew from a start up to a publicly traded company with more than $50 million in annual revenues and partnerships with major OEM power tool multinationals including Makita, Black & Decker/DeWalt and Bosch. Mr. Jore developed a business strategy to create a low-cost pathway from “raw material to end user toolbox,” partnering directly with major retailers, including Sears, Home Depot, and Lowes, to match value-add to supply chain and to expand web-based opportunities. As part of the strategy, Mr. Jore developed innovative processes under a manufacturing philosophy that he dubbed “Technological Vertical Integration” (TVI), resulting in global competitiveness in product categories generally considered commodities. TVI incorporated technology into processes and allowed domestic competitiveness over Asian manufacturers at superior quality levels. Matt received his Business, Political Science/Economics BA from University of Montana.

    Lincoln Jore
    Engineering Specialist, Power System Integration
    Lincoln has nine years of experience in engineering and design for electric machines and low voltage control electronics. As a co-inventor of the BWP air core technology, Lincoln also has extensive experience testing and validating permanent magnet machine performance and the associated performance of the power conversion equipment. Lincoln currently supports the power system design and integration efforts for the full-scale generator test system. Prior to his breakthrough invention and subsequent work as an entrepreneur and power systems engineer, Lincoln attended the University of Montana.
    Jim Jore
    Principal Engineer, Generator Application Engineering and Intellectual Property
    Jim has 19 years’ of experience in intellectual property strategy, management. Jim also has more than ten years’ experience developing advanced design tools for the optimization of air core, permanent magnet machines. Jim currently leads the intellectual property development and supports the electromagnetic system optimization efforts. Jim received his B.A. in Biology from Carroll College in Helena, Montana..

    Golly…I hope they are not too busy over at the CORE factory to spend a bit of time on the WIND TURBINE widget.

    Probably not, cos all that Core does is import a weed trimmer from China!

  2. Keef Wivaneff

    Figure 1 – Open circuit voltage measurements collected on Boulder Wind Power’s full-scale proof-of-concept generator, showing exceptional correlation with the prediction formed by detailed 3-D electromagnetic finite-element analysis.””

    And WTF does that prove?

    Well, I guess it proves that there is a sucker born every minute!

  3. Keef Wivaneff


    Most conventional generator designs follow a set of empirically validated design rules dating back to Nikola Tesla’s time for producing new machine designs. Understanding and leveraging detailed electromagnetic finite element analysis is not a standard practice across the industry, yet.
    However, the novel BWP axial flux air core design presented its designers with a white sheet of paper, a limited set of empirically validated design rules, and a truly unique set of geometric constraints. Consequently, an advanced 3-D electromagnetic simulation capability was a requirement early in the design process.
    BWP committed to the use of a 3-D electromagnetic simulation package and invested in finding and training talented engineers to achieve the analytical accuracy required. This represents a radical advancement over the rest of the wind industry, which is just beginning to embrace simpler 2-D simulation methods. Although less accurate, these 2-D methods are effective for their applications since most electromagnetic finite element analysis efforts are directed at understanding specific issues that are readily represented in a 2-D “slice” of conventional machines. Through its investment in team and tools, BWP is building a capability that is unique in this industry – namely, taking white sheet electromagnetic design challenges completely through a full 3-D simulation design process which gives BWP unique insight into the interactions between magnetic and electric fields and enables the discovery of new solutions that have broad applicability.

    I smell HORSE-SHIT!

  4. Keef Wivaneff

    “The startup doesn’t plan to make and sell generators, however. Instead, it plans to make money mostly by licensing its technology.”

    Come in to my parlour said the spider to the fly!

    SunCube Manufacturing License Summary

    Our solar PV SunCube technology is unique in several ways and offers many significant benefits to licensees which goes well beyond the SunCube itself and addresses the very core issues facing the solar PV industry.
    The worlds lowest solar PV $ per watt manufacturing cost.
    The worlds first solar PV farm $ per kWhs price that equates to fossil fuel base load $ per kWh price.
    The worlds first solar PV domestic and commercial rooftop $ per kWh at less than grid supply price.
    The worlds lowest capital cost to setup a solar PV manufacturing plant.
    The worlds simplest solar PV manufacturing plant requiring just common hand tools.
    The worlds fastest to commission solar PV manufacturing plant.
    The worlds most profitable solar PV manufacturing plant, solar PV system and solar PV farms.
    The worlds first small MW solar PV manufacturing plant for developing nations and smaller markets.
    The worlds easiest, lowest cost to construct and maintain and quickest to construct solar PV farm methodology.
    That is a lot of claims but they are all 100% true.

    The basic structure of the license for a 30 MW SunCube manufacturing is summarized below. Further down we have worked up an example of a 3 MW facility which may be of more interest to smaller markets.
    Term of the license is at least 5 years.
    One time upfront license fee of US$2.7 million, 50% of which is deductible as against royalty payments. This is scalable downward for plants of below 30 MWs capacity. The license fee also includes virtually unlimited consultancy services from GGE. We will come to you, redesign the SunCube for local conditions and / or suppliers if necessary, work with and train your people to get your SunCube manufacturing facility up and running ASAP and get it running right the first time.

    Never give a sucker an even break!

  5. Minwoo Kim

    Obama’s energy policy is right. Japan’s FiT in July is among the highest in the world. Japan’s FiT is shaking the renewable energy market. New solutions will be showed in Japan. This is it!
    Floating Wind Turbine is one of the best solutions for USA and UK. U.K has more install places around its shores than any other in the world. USA has Atlantic Coast. As you know, they have to reduce vibration to install Floating Wind Turbines on the sea. Because, it makes many kinds of problems! Vibration’s caused by wind, waves and external forces. New Floating Body Stabilizer for Floating Wind Turbines has been created in South Korea. The Floating Body Stabilizers generate drag force immediately when Floating Wind Turbines are being rolled and pitched on the water. Recently, this Floating Body Stabilizers have been used to reduce vibration of Floating Solar Panels in South Korea. You can see New Floating Body Stabilizer videos in YouTube.,

  6. Albert Hartman

    The coreless axial flux designs are nice from a smoothness standpoint, but they generally use more permanent magnet material and more copper than the radial flux alternatives.

    • Chris Varrone

      You are correct that 6 tons of steel savings are not sufficient to replace the entire drive train. However, I believe you are mistakenly taking the ‘6 tons’ figure as the main benefit of the innovation. The savings in tower weight is only given as “for example” – in general, the move to PMG is not done to save tower weight at all. It is just an _ancillary_ benefit. Direct drive PMG machines (e.g., Northern Power or Goldwind) have many advantages over traditional geared drivetrains with “DFIG” (induction generators) – fewer parts, greater reliability, greater energy capture. The challenge has been cost of the magnets and added weight of the generators, which are heavy iron-core multipole machines. If the BWP design can take the cost/weight issue off the table, then all the _other_ advantages are what will sell the new design.

  7. “In a typical generator today, both the rotor and the stator are made with iron wrapped with copper coils to create the magnetic field for producing mechanical energy.”

    Generator is supposed to produce electrical energy. It converts mechanical energy to electrical energy.