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  Diagram of the machines at the bearing center Copyright: © CWD

In the WEA-Lagerzentrum.NRW project, which is funded by the EU and the federeal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, scientists from the Chair for Wind Power Drives at RWTH Aachen University are working together with equipment, gearbox and rolling bearing manufacturers in the wind turbine industry to develop novel test procedures for the qualification and approval of rolling bearings for wind turbines (WT).

To this end, two unique prototype test rigs for rolling bearing tests were set up as part of the project and put into operation in mid-2020. The test rigs reproduce the operating conditions of a WT gearbox in a high-speed shaft (HSS) stage on the one hand and in a planetary stage on the other. For the qualification of the HSS and planetary gear bearings (PGB), the Bearing Robustness Test (BRT) was developed, which takes into account the mechanical loads from 6 years of operation in a time-referenced form. With regard to industrial application, a test time of maximum 1,000 h was defined. Establishing the BRT as a qualification method for rolling bearings reduces the risk of bearing failure in the field and thus increases operational reliability as well as the amount of electricity produced.

BRT tests have been conducted on both test rigs since August 2020, exposing the bearings to the time-graded loads of 6 years of plant operation. In the meantime, the BRT test methodology is being continuously developed to reflect the mechanical loads from the field as realistically as possible.