Ricardo to lead turbine drivetrain project

Ricardo is to lead a £634,980 project to increase the reliability and lifetime of drivetrains of large offshore wind systems.

Ricardo and project partners ScottishPower Renewables and the Universities of Sheffield and Strathclyde were named yesterday as recipients of funding from the government’s Offshore Wind Component Technologies Scheme to develop technologies that will cut the cost of offshore wind energy.

A wind turbine’s drivetrain allows energy captured from the wind to be converted to usable shaft power that can be fed to the electric generator.

According to Ricardo, wind turbines are susceptible to levels of reliability that would be considered unacceptable in other industrial processes, which is compounded by the difficulties of carrying out significant maintenance on turbines once installed.

Replacement part lead times and turbine access can be challenging for land based systems in remote locations, and more so for offshore wind farms where repairs depend on the availability of support vessels and calm sea conditions.

The OWDIn (Offshore Wind Drivetrain Innovation) project was announced by Edward Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate, at the annual RenewableUK conference in Birmingham on November 5, 2013.

According to a statement, the Ricardo-led project takes a broad drivetrain approach to improving reliability through the development of sub-systems that will be applicable to different drivetrain architectures.

The project will see the Ricardo MultiLife wind turbine bearing management system for gearbox planet bearings deployed at a ScottishPower Renewables wind farm known to experience aggressive wind conditions. Ricardo claim a test bench environment has already demonstrated the system’s potential to extend bearing life by up to 500 per cent.

In addition, the project will involve the development of a Ricardo concept for a dual-function coupling that avoids drivetrain overloads. The Torque-Only Coupling and Torque Truncation system will be applicable only to new offshore wind turbines but offers the prospect of enabling them to survive in the harshest conditions for their full 25 year operating life without major maintenance intervention.

Finally, the project aims to develop a next-generation condition monitoring and prognostics system targeted at offshore wind farms but capable of retrofit to existing wind farms.

This system will use advanced sensors to provide early indications of potential fault development in order to enable preventative measures to be taken, thereby avoiding the costs and lost production of enforced downtime through damage.

Three other offshore wind projects will receive a share of £2.5m government investment under the government’s Offshore Wind Component Technologies Scheme to develop technologies which cut the cost of offshore wind energy:

Nottingham-based TetraFloat have been awarded £134,000 to validate and improve a novel floating platform design;

Blade Dynamics are in receipt of £842,630 to design, evaluate, build and test an innovative composite wind turbine hub. This will reduce the loads on the entire turbine, tower and foundation.

SSE Renewables UK have been awarded a grant of £1m for their National Offshore Wind Turbine Test Facility project. Among other things this will test foundations, logistics, and grid integration on Siemens 6MW pre-production turbine.