How to take care of wind turbine gearboxes?
Although wind turbine gearboxes made the headlines 10 years ago with several high profile serial defects, gearboxes are still used in modern wind turbines. Moreover, gearless turbines will certainly not be the only ones around in the future, even offshore.
Gearbox reliability has improved significantly over the years, thanks to a combination of better load understanding and testing procedures. Gearbox design has also evolved in such a way that it is becoming easier to replace subcomponents, compared to the past. This reliability improvement is extremely interesting for developers, since geared wind turbines are approximately 10-15% cheaper than their gearless counterpart.
However, this improved reliability does not mean gearboxes are now completely trouble-free and replacing a gearbox still comes at a very high cost. It is therefore very important to understand the different failure modes in order to monitor more efficiently the gearbox and ensure that a failure in one subcomponent does not propagate and compromise the integrity of the gearbox. In other words, replacing a shaft or a bearing is cheaper and quicker than replacing the whole gearbox.
3E has developed a white paper that describes the different inspection and monitoring techniques used in the industry to assess gearbox condition and evaluate pros and cons.
You can request it through our contact form.