Choosing the Right Bearings Before Losing!

Choosing the Right Bearings Before Losing!

By Energy CIO Insights | Friday, August 30, 2019

As the offshore turbine for harnessing wind energy is increasing gradually, it is necessary for more skilled and trained professionals to throw more attention to the many bearing designs. The right one will extend the turbine’s life whereas the wrong one will burn holes in the wallets.

FREMONT, CA: Due credit for the hard work of onshore wind developers for their dedication needs to be provided. The wind power capacity in the U.S. is fully optimized, and if the time comes when the dependency on wind power increases, the offshore sector will be pushed forward in America.  

Usually, the offshore projects get the biggest investments, even though marine projects offer much higher generation rate considering the long run. More than half of the U.S. population lives in coastal areas, creating the majority of the demand. Offshore projects which harness energy from marine winds can be economically installed to supply electricity to the customers along the shoreline.

To increase the offshore capacity, re-sizing the turbines with components that can withstand the impact of the harsh sea-salt conditions all while functioning efficiently. However, to construct such high-powered turbines without specific bearings is impossible, which is why the offshore turbine depends on the direct-drive technology instead of the gearboxes. 

The main shaft bearing is utilized sparingly in most of the offshore turbines. These bearings are forced to undergo higher than design loads, high rate of deflections, and slower rotational speeds when compared to the ones built onshore. The lubricants are exposed to the saltwater, which is highly corrosive and may cause unnecessary damage to the bearing and the surface. The turbine operators can find the most reliable solution to capitalize on offshore opportunities wholly by understanding which bearing can be utilized when.  

· Maximizing Performance Offshore: 

When compared to onshore turbines, the offshore ones are gigantic, spanning more than twice the size of small turbines. The sheer size of these wings is necessary to withstand extreme wind loads, and physiological demands that are greater than the enormity of itself is placed on the gearboxes. The bearings can control these pressures, and any potential failure in offshore wind turbines can be avoided as it is expensive. 

It is of utmost importance to choose high-quality components, which are trustworthy with means for efficient functioning and minimal downtime. 

 In a perfect world, these bearings need the utmost attention, from geometry, clearances, and load capacity. Custom engineered pieces depending on its application should be designed for the particular project necessarily. 

The ideal bearing will not cause any extra pre-load, which may result in a high stress, increased bearing temperatures, and maybe fragile. Similarly, a bearing with excess clearance may experience increased deflections, improper roller load sharing, increased stresses, and a lot of factors can go wrong. 

Without any distinction, the result of the damage is—compromised the performance of the turbine. Eventually, the bearing will demand more attention, leading to turbine downtime and lost operation ability. To capitalize on the asset’s longevity and potential, technical expertise and product quality are crucial. 

Repairs and replacements of offshore components are much higher in cost than onshore ones. The replacement of parts or bearing in offshore turbines requires a trained and skilled team with a vessel for transportation, as well as the necessary equipment to diagnose the damage accurately. In the case of non-detection, it is essential to disassemble the turbine and repair the damage; this requires an expensive offshore crane to be rented. 

· Weighing The Options:

The desired performance of the offshore wind turbines has increased in recent times, ever since the tapered roller bearings were adopted. The new bearings have displayed much more flexibility than the conventional spherical roller bearing usually considered for most onshore wind applications. As a fact, major offshore turbines now have employed the tapered roller main-shaft bearings since it performed better than the designs utilized earlier. 

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The fundamental difference between the spherical and tapered bearings is the shape. The spherical comprises a barrel-shaped roller whereas the tapered bearings are smaller and offer increased power density, reducing the consumption of the overall cost of energy. The tapered bearings can distribute thrust properly via radial loads, meaning it can withstand harsh conditions and unpredictable changes in the wind direction and speed. 

But, the most essential action is to consider all the specific demands of the application before making the decision. Those interested in taking advantage of the bearings need to identify the right suppliers who can offer proven expertise on the problem-solving and the entirety of the system to tackle the challenges of the offshore wind.  

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