For offshore wind turbines, taking every possible step to reduce the risk of mechanical breakdown is mission-critical. With a raft of unique application challenges and constant concern around efficient use of funding for wind farm management, engineering reliable, productive up-time into the wind energy sector will be no easy task. And for off-shore turbines, with the extra costs associated with maintaining assets some 20 miles from land, reliability and durability are a particular focus.
A leading manufacturer of high precision gearing products and services, David Brown has been providing engineering expertise to a range of heavy duty process industries, rail and critical defence applications worldwide for 150 years. The company is developing this sovereign foothold into a specialism for swift, effective and reliable engineering in the fast-growing wind turbine industry, understanding that such gearbox malfunctions cost wind farm operators dearly in terms of downtime and replacement/repair expenditure.
The David Brown team is quickly building a reputation as a leading independent inspector of end-of-warranty wind turbines. Here Erik Roeloffzen, Design Analyst within that team, identifies ten typical failure modes taken from his unique experience and advises how to avoid them:
The problem: fatigue and normal wear
Fatigue damage and regular wear of moving parts is unavoidable in any machinery, but the gearboxes for wind turbines present additional design challenges which affect performance and, as a result, contradict the requirements for guarding against fatigue wear. Although a gearbox would ideally have a lifespan of 20 years with engineers designing in over-capacity and the addition of sophisticated technology to increase performance and guarantee safe and fault-free operation, considerations around cost, weight and size often prevent this.