Wind Drivetrain: Reliability and Serviceability of Drivetrains

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An integral component of a wind turbine, the drivetrain is continually evolving as new concepts and designs are explored. As larger turbines are developed, and more wind farms are installed in deeper water, the service and maintenance of each component must also be considered.

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Wind Drivetrain: Reliability and Serviceability of Drivetrains

  1. 1. Reliability and Serviceability of DrivetrainsOffshore wind power is undergoing intense growth in order to meet the European energytargets laid out for 2020. Research and development is being carried out into all aspects ofthe industry as it attempts to emerge as the main source of renewable energy throughoutEurope.An integral component of a wind turbine, the drivetrain is continually evolving as newconcepts and designs are explored. As larger turbines are developed, and more wind farmsare installed in deeper water, the service and maintenance of each component must also beconsidered.The design of drivetrains is moving towards direct drive technology, and new initiatives arealso being developed in hydraulic and hydrodynamic technology. All of the new concepts anddesigns have reliability as a central aim in development, as drivetrain failure is a bigcontributor to the time a wind turbine spends out of commission.Operation and DevelopmentPlanned maintenance at sea is a much more complicated routine than on land, andunexpected service visits are highly unwelcome. A wind turbine drivetrain may have a yearlymaintenance routine consisting of generator brush inspections, gearbox oil and filter changes,LSS bearing grease refill and container removal. The extra overheads of a boat, a crew, andsea trained technicians can easily amount to several thousand pounds; and the weather candelay schedule and increase the costs.According to data gathered from existing offshore wind farms, drivetrain, generator, andgearbox failures account for around 14% of all down time for offshore turbines. Due to thecomplexity of repairs, however, they account for 39% of the time a turbine is out ofcommission per year. Typical failures include HSS generator and bearing damage, couplingdegradation and internal gearbox component failures.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- IQPC GmbH | Friedrichstr. 94 | D-10117 Berlin, Germany t: +49 (0) 30 2091 3330 | f: +49 (0) 30 2091 3263 | e: eq@iqpc.de | w: www.iqpc.de Visit IQPC for a portfolio of topic-related events, congresses, seminars and conferences: www.iqpc.de
  2. 2. There are several causes associated with drivetrain failure, some specific to the offshoreenvironment. Wind speed can increase considerably even when only a short distance fromthe shore; while this improves the potential for energy production, it significantly increasesthe stress and pressure placed on components and can cause fatigue damage far quickerthan in onshore applications. Turbulence is also greatly increased at sea, and althoughdesigners plan the layout of wind farms to avoid it, turbines can still be subject todownstream turbulence from other turbines in the grid.Direct drive technology is being developed to eliminate the gearbox from the drivetrainassembly altogether. While Hybrid technology is being developed to combine very simple andreliable gearboxes with direct drive systems. These are being designed with maintenancefully in mind, and monitoring systems are being developed which can highlight weaknessesbefore they become failures to proactively prevent down time.ETI drivetrain test rigTo support the Crown Estates’ round three offshore programs in the UK, the EnergyTechnologies Institute is building a wind turbine drivetrain test rig in Blyth, Northumberland.The rig will be open access and will be the world’s largest test centre, able to test turbines upto 15MW. The indoor test rig is being designed so that the whole nacelle can be tested priorto installation, giving much more commercial security to large scale deployment.Built on the Narec (New and Renewable Energy Centre) site in Blyth, and known as ProjectFujin, the test rig will enable drivetrain testing in different dynamic scenarios, and will testthe whole drivetrain system. New technologies and prototypes can be rigorously testedbefore trial installation, helping to speed up the design process.Opening in late 2011, the centre will test gearbox design, validation and development,converter and control validation, grid disconnection simulation, component testing andresearch, environmental impact simulation, and lightening strike protection systems. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- IQPC GmbH | Friedrichstr. 94 | D-10117 Berlin, Germany t: +49 (0) 30 2091 3330 | f: +49 (0) 30 2091 3263 | e: eq@iqpc.de | w: www.iqpc.de Visit IQPC for a portfolio of topic-related events, congresses, seminars and conferences: www.iqpc.de
  3. 3. Artist’s impression of the drivetrain test centre, Source: NarecETI’s Chief Executive, David Clarke, said of the test centre, “This world leading facility willallow turbine manufacturers and engineering teams to test the reliability of their equipmentunder realistic load conditions without the expense and risk of deploying them offshore.”Ricardo MultiLife BearingRicardo was selected in collaboration with HORIBA to design plans for the construction of theETI drivetrain test rig, and the company was also given a grant of three million pounds by theNorthern Wind Innovation Program (NWIP) to develop durable gearbox bearings for windturbine gearboxes.A global company, Ricardo is a key developer within the wind turbine drivetrain sector, and isinvolved in the design of modular solutions for drivetrains. The MultiLife bearing project wasinitiated to increase the durability and reliability of gearbox bearings for use offshore.Bearings are prone to several different types of failure and in-service maintenance is verydifficult due to conditions. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- IQPC GmbH | Friedrichstr. 94 | D-10117 Berlin, Germany t: +49 (0) 30 2091 3330 | f: +49 (0) 30 2091 3263 | e: eq@iqpc.de | w: www.iqpc.de Visit IQPC for a portfolio of topic-related events, congresses, seminars and conferences: www.iqpc.de
  4. 4. Source: RicardoResearch by Ricardo found that Wind turbine bearings with fixed inner races can wear in a 40degree arc, resulting in premature failure. Ricardo has been tasked with developing aprototype bearing which will have a five times increase in lifespan. The final design of theMultiLife bearing provides several benefits; it can be retro-fitted to existing turbines with verylittle change needed to the gearbox. Ricardo is confident that this year it will complete theproject and reveal a bearing with a five times increased life expectancy. Want to learn more about current technologies and developments in the drivetrain concepts for wind turbines? Visit our download centre for more articles, white papers and interviews: http://bit.ly/wind-drivetrain ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- IQPC GmbH | Friedrichstr. 94 | D-10117 Berlin, Germany t: +49 (0) 30 2091 3330 | f: +49 (0) 30 2091 3263 | e: eq@iqpc.de | w: www.iqpc.de Visit IQPC for a portfolio of topic-related events, congresses, seminars and conferences: www.iqpc.de

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