After a one-year preparation phase, the “Joint project: Loads on the drive components of wind turbines,” the so-called FVA nacelle, was inaugurated at the Center for Wind Power Drives (CWD) at RWTH Aachen on May 31. The FVA nacelle was developed through the close cooperation of the university and the member companies of the Forschungsvereinigung Antriebstechnik e.V. (FVA), which include Schaeffler.
The FVA nacelle makes it possible to test the electromechanical drive train of wind turbines in the multi-megawatt range under near-real-life conditions. For the first time, the test stand permits the FVA member companies to analyze the components in the entire system along the value added chain. The findings of the project help increase the reliability of wind turbines, increasing electricity production and reducing costs for service and repairs. Since 2015, the project has been funded for three years by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Technology as part of its sixth energy research program entitled “Research for environmentally friendly, reliable and affordable energy supply.”
The Drive Train as a Research Object: Schaeffler Supplies Bearings and Measuring Technology
As an FVA member, Schaeffler strongly supports this pre-competitive joint research. In this project, Schaeffler has made a significant contribution to main bearing and gearbox research. Schaeffler has provided a total of 18 gearbox bearings and equipped these cylindrical roller bearings, tapered roller bearings and ball bearings with the relevant measuring technology for determining operating behavior. This will make it possible to reproduce the impact of the loads on the rotor and all the way to the rolling contacts in the gearbox – an important prerequisite for better understanding the interaction in the drive train and for designing more reliable gearboxes in the future. This unique project benefits science, the economy and society.
The RWTH Aachen students are given the opportunity to perform research on a marketable wind turbine and work with renowned companies. The industrial companies receive optimized software tools to design their products. The FVA Workbench software platform makes these available to FVA members and applicable in everyday operations. The “FVA Nacelle” project thus brings the exit from nuclear and fossil-fuel energy a big step ahead.
Wind turbines have unplanned downtimes averaging one to two weeks per year. Downtimes and expensive service work may occur in spite of sophisticated individual components. The extreme torques, complex load cycles on the rotor hub and interaction with the network all result in local loads in the entire wind turbine system that cannot be reproduced and predicted sufficiently by means of abstract component tests or available simulation models. The FVA nacelle and the four-megawatt system test stand now permit the impacts of these extreme conditions on the entire system to be determined. The test stand is used to perform turbine inspections and validations as well as to further develop the existing simulation models.
The four-megawatt system test stand can simulate various levels of wind fields and network feedback so that components with different operating and load conditions can be analyzed. Based on this, scientists and companies want to develop new, valid simulation models and optimize the inspected models. Critical operating conditions will be identified and prevented specifically by adjusting system controls.