Wind Turbine Bearing Test Facility

| Environmental Testing

The sleeving ring forms part of the structure of high reliability bearings for use in wind turbines

A dedicated test house in Denmark will provide the facilities for environmental testing of bearings for wind turbines

The expansion of renewable energy is being driven to a great extent by wind turbines, which are becoming larger and more powerful.

With such power available, the main shaft bearing system, as an integral part of the drive train, is of elementary importance, as this is where all the forces and torques exerted by the wind on the turbine add up. As the market builds up and the challenges become greater, it’s important that the right facilities and equipment exist to assure the quality of the equipment being used and, in this respect, Schaeffler is rising to the challenge and will contribute actively to the development of multi-megawatt wind turbines.

Dedicated bearing test facility

Now, the world’s most powerful test facility for main shaft bearings is planned to be built at LORC (Lindø Offshore Renewables Centre) in In Lindø, Denmark. The investment is in the mid-double-digit millions and includes grants from the Danish GreenLab programme. LORC has partnered with R&D Test Systems, a supplier of test benches for the wind industry, to build the new test facility and Schaeffler played a major part in defining its specifications and will be the first customer to test its main shaft bearings for future generations of wind turbines in cooperation with OEMs. Concrete test programmes for wind farm bearings are planned to be already running by the end of next year.

Dr Michael Pausch, CTO Industrial Schaeffler, explains: “With LORC, one of the most experienced operators of test facilities for wind turbine drivetrains, we have found a partner to help us further expand our know-how and our product performance. We now have the opportunity to shape the development of the next generations of wind turbines with suitable testing technology and method development.”

Schaeffler has been gaining valuable insights into the development of bearings since 2011 with “Astraios”, which was the world’s most powerful test bench at the time.

“With the new test facility, we will now be able to advance into new and future dimensions and contribute to a more rapid development of reliable multi-megawatt turbines,” says Bernd Endres, Vice President Business Unit Wind, Schaeffler Industrial.

Closed loop engineering

The company is no stranger to the technology and has been offering reliable bearing products for both onshore and offshore wind turbines for around 40 years with rolling bearings from Schaeffler being found in every second to third wind turbine worldwide.

The company takes a “closed loop engineering” approach for its wind turbine bearings. This means that besides engaging in the pure development of bearing systems, the company’s team of engineers also supports turbine development with system simulations, testing and field measurement campaigns. The findings gained from this process are fed back into the further development of customers’ projects, design tools as well as the development of new bearing solutions thereby closing the design and development loop. Schaeffler’s team of experts work closely with developers from OEMs to increase the reliability of wind turbines and make wind power more cost-effective. The new test bench at the LORC facility in Lindø will provide an important building block for the developments in wind powered energy generation of the coming decades.

Jonathan Newell
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