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Improving the reliability of industrial multi-MW wind turbines

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Although wind turbine gearboxes are designed to remain in service for 20-25 years, this is not normally the case due to defects initiating and developing prematurely. A large number of gearboxes fail after seven to eight years in service. In offshore wind farms, gearbox failures have been reported after only one to two years in service, leading to noteworthy production losses. Reliability issues associated with wind turbine gearboxes are yet to be resolved. Within this paper, the quality of materials used for manufacturing wind turbine gearbox gears and bearings has been evaluated. The damage mechanisms affecting gearbox materials have been investigated based on metallographic analysis carried out on failed samples removed from in-service industrial wind turbines. Finite element analysis (FEA) has been carried out in order to simulate damage initiation and propagation under in-service conditions. The results have been compared with the experimental observations made on the failed field samples and have been found to be in good agreement. The applicability of acoustic emission in detecting and identifying defects in different wind turbine gearbox components remotely has been assessed following measurements in the field.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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