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SKF Powers Clean Energy Sector with Proven, Collaborative, Problem-solving and Innovative Solutions for Wind Energy Applications

Company’s wide range of solutions designed for wind turbines help equipment manufacturers & aftermarket service providers meet fast-growing demand

SKF, a leading global manufacturer of bearings, sealing solutions, lubrication management, condition monitoring systems, and services, offers an extensive range of collaborative, problem-solving solutions for wind turbine applications globally. As part of the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability, SKF has invested for decades in developing solutions to establish wind energy as one of the foremost, viable and sustainable sources of electricity. Technology holds the key to achieving both reliability and sustainability, while increasing wind turbine availability, productivity and performance.

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The wind energy sector in North America, and in the United States in particular, is experiencing unprecedented growth. The U.S. Department of Energy projects the amount of wind energy produced will almost double from 113 gigawatts (GW) today to 224 GW by 2030, with wind turbines present across 47 states, and currently close to 2,000 new wind turbines are being constructed each year.

With nearly 60,000 wind turbines currently in use in the United States, operators need their assets to remain operational for as long as possible, often in the most challenging conditions – extreme temperatures, offshore and remote locations. High cost of repairs and long lead times for replacement parts can combine to reduce the competitiveness of this clean, renewable energy source. That’s why SKF is partnering with leaders in the wind industry to help minimize the levelized cost of energy by improving turbine designs, increasing reliability and maximizing performance and availability – all while reducing unplanned maintenance and repairs.

SKF solutions consist of an extensive range of products and solutions for wind turbine manufacturers, owner/operators and service providers, from the main shaft to the gearbox to the generator to pitch and yaw applications.  SKF’s global footprint is able to reliably meet customers’ needs for parts, expertise and service. In North America, the company manufactures parts for wind turbines at three locations — Flowery Branch, GA and Sumter, SC in the United States; and Monterrey in Mexico.

Research and development is a strategic differentiator for SKF and requires the large-size bearings used in wind turbines to be tested in the real-time conditions they experience in the field. SKF, unlike its competitors, has the capability to do this at the Sven Wingquist Test Center in Schweinfurt, Germany. The Center can currently test bearings up to 6-meter Outer Diameter, which can power turbines rated up to 14 MW.

In addition, SKF is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to study the performance of wind turbine drivetrains under a variety of conditions in order to gain insights into the possible causes of wind turbine bearing failures. The main purpose of this partnership is to investigate the failure modes of both gearbox and main shaft bearings, with the aim of developing new, improved designs for greater reliability. More recently, NREL published a report on our work together sharing real-time operational loading conditions in order to extend the life of gearbox bearings. The data was collected in an operational wind turbine through the Joint Industry Megawatt Scale Gearbox Field Tests.

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Some of the specialized SKF products and services developed for use in the wind turbine industry include:

  • High endurance slewing bearings for blades and nacelle
  • NoWear coated main shaft bearings
  • Main shaft seals to prevent premature failure
  • Integrated outer ring (IOR) planetary bearings
  • Black Oxide bearings for gearboxes, with case hardened steel in severe cases
  • MRC hybrid ceramic bearings for generators
  • INSOCOAT bearings for generators
  • Remanufacturing services
  • Spare Part Management services
  • Automatic Lubrication Systems (ALS) for mainshafts, pitch and yaw, and generators
  • Condition monitoring for the complete drivetrain

“SKF has partnered with leading manufacturers, owner/operators and service providers to help optimize turbine performance and reliability since the industry was established. Our solutions help safely and effectively lower total cost of ownership and increase performance for everything that rotates inside the wind turbine,” said Kush Sodha, SKF’s Wind Industry Manager. “SKF is dedicated to collaborating with industry partners to engineer solutions that help wind energy continue to be a clean, reliable, sustainable and cost-competitive alternative to traditional sources of energy.”

Partnering to extend wind turbine service life
Remote condition monitoring is particularly suitable for the wind industry, as it allows turbine operators to assess the equipment while the turbine is producing energy. Gearboxes and main shaft bearings are critical components in wind turbines. Failure of these components can lead to lost revenue, high emergency repair costs and, ultimately, higher energy production costs.

In partnership with American Clean Power (ACP), SKF tackled two critical performance and reliability topics at the 2021 ACP Operations & Maintenance and Safety Virtual Summit.  Service Optimization of the Wind Turbine Drivetrain through Digital Solutions focused on improving the cost of wind energy through digital solutions like condition monitoring and data analysis to make wind energy more competitive against fossil fuel energy. Premature Failures in Wind Turbine Main Shaft Bearings highlighted problem-solving upgrades designed to limit the risk of downtime and replacement, in addition to the importance of determining the root cause of bearing failures.

The ACP Operations & Maintenance and Safety Virtual Summit is where the industry connects to identify solutions in health and safety, operations and maintenance, workforce training and development, and quality assurance.

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