Wind Turbine Gear Reducers Last Longer Than Ever

Wind energy has become one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy, and all of it depends on reliable power industry gearboxes.Wind energy has become one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy, and all of it depends on reliable power industry gearboxes. The generation capacity worldwide has increased by a factor of nearly 75 in the past twenty years and it’s poised to continue to grow. This developing sector of the power industry also faces a few challenges, specifically around engineering gearboxes that can hold up to the unique stresses of wind turbine experiences. 

Gearboxes in wind turbines have a high tendency to fail prematurely due to factors like the newness of the industry, a poor understanding of the loads involved, the swift change to extra-large turbine sizes, and emerging failure modes in turbine bearings. However, the power industry has continued to make progress in creating energy industry equipment solutions to increase the reliability of wind turbine gears and gearboxes.

Innovations in Energy Industry Equipment Solutions

Wind turbines rely on the drivetrain which contains a generator and a gearbox that converts the rotation of the blades into electricity. Most modern wind turbines use the generator in the drivetrain to speed up the rotation of the blades. This allows them to reach the high rotations per minute needed to generate electricity. This also means that the wind turbine gears and gearboxes require the most maintenance.

The Department of Energy is currently funding projects with the aim to develop highly efficient and lightweight wind turbine generators that use a direct drive generator that can generate electricity at lower speeds and using fewer moving parts. 

Another innovation that is being developed is to reduce the mass and cost of a wind turbine while increasing the efficiency of the generators. This can reduce the need for larger foundations and better adapt wind turbines to offshore uses where a floating foundation would be needed.

The hope of these projects is to design generators that can be scaled up to 10 megawatts to take advantage of the larger and more powerful wind turbines both in tall wind and offshore applications.

Growing Reliability of Wind Turbine Gears & Gearboxes

A giant wind turbine is undergoing maintenanceAt present, the target service life of a wind turbine is around 100 million main-shaft revolutions over 20 years. However most turbines encounter problems well before that. 

Wind turbine gears and gearboxes are determined to fail if it meets any of the following conditions:

  • The gearbox jams and stops rotating.
  • The gearbox breaks or allows the rotor to turn without turning the generator.
  • The wind turbine exceeds allowable sound or vibration limits.
  • There is excessive oil leakage.
  • The turbine requires excessive maintenance. 

The causes of failure can be many, but are often due to failed gears, shafts, bearing, or housings which break or fail. Most often this is due to bending fatigue which is initiated by damage like micropitting or scuffing. Sometimes this can result in the destruction of the turbine when the gearbox breaks and the rotors are allowed to overspeed.

So, manufacturers of power industry gearboxes and wind energy gears and gearboxes have worked to address the causes of these failures. 

In the past it was impossible to do a full-scale test of wind-turbine gearboxes, so OEMs had to rely on a few short tests on the subcomponents in order to validate the designs. Now, with the proliferation of larger testing sites, engineers can test their power industry gearboxes more thoroughly.

It was also unclear exactly how a wind turbine gearbox would respond to the loads that they have to deal with. Using new programs and software, engineers can get a more accurate picture of what sorts of stresses a wind turbine gearbox would encounter thus creating more durable gearboxes.

The new data gathered by the software has also been used to develop medium-speed gearboxes which use fewer gears, thus increasing the reliability of the wind turbine gearbox. This can translate to lowering the overall cost of energy which can help make wind energy competitive with fossil fuels. 

Quality Power Industry Gearboxes from NW Industrial, LLC

If you are looking for power industry gearboxes or Falk gearboxes for your wind turbines, NW Industrial Sales, LLC offers over 70 years of combined experience helping industries like the power industry. 

We offer a wide selection of Falk products and fluid sealing solutions, in addition to our expansive inventory of spare gearbox parts, gear reducers, and more. We are also proud agents of Rexnord Industrial Services, which gives you access to their nationwide maintenance network. 

If you would like to learn more, or speak with one of our specialists, contact us today. We are available 24/7 to help you.

2021-09-29T22:50:06+00:00October 20th, 2021|
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