There is evidence that consistent wind turbine maintenance and modern manufacturing practices can help prevent wind turbine bearing failures. However, sometimes, despite regular maintenance and inspections, these failures still manage to take place and often long before the turbines are anywhere near their calculated lifespan. The question is, why? What causes them? And what can be done about it? We investigate below.
What causes wind turbine bearing failures?
Although it is not the only potential culprit behind bearing failures in wind turbines, the primary cause of these failures is overloading. However, did you know that underloading can also have negative effects on the bearings over time? When bearings are underloaded, they are especially vulnerable to surface damage in the event of sudden gusts of wind, grid faults, or braking. The destruction that takes place to the surface of the bearings can accelerate wear and tear significantly, ultimately leading to premature failure.
Other potential causes of wind turbine bearing failures include non-torque load sharing, insufficient maintenance, irregular inspections and changes of gearbox oil, axial cracks forming on the bearings, and carrier bearing clearance.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), over three-quarters of all wind turbine gearbox failures occur as a direct result of bearing failures.
How to prevent wind turbine bearing failures
It is recommended for one to invest in bearings made of premium steel, and to consider buying bearings that come with compressive residual stresses brought about by the previous loading. There are renewable energy experts who strongly believe that these types of bearings can effectively counteract the imposed higher stresses contributing to rolling contact fatigue, another common cause of failure.
Also, ensure that you turn to a professional to perform wind turbine maintenance at least once every year. Here at Anemoi Energy Services, we specialize in wind turbine services and maintenance and have the know-how necessary to keep your turbine bearings and gearboxes in tip-top condition.
Contact us today for more information.