25 Jul 2024


60MW wind turbine test rig will be world’s most powerful

An computer-generated image of what the finished 5,700-tonne wind turbine test rig will look like

A team of 35 Danish engineers has started work on what will be the world’s most powerful test bench for wind power components when it is completed in 2024. The 60m-long test bench, incorporating two 30MW motors, and weighing 5,700 tonnes, will also be the world’s largest.

The facility – to be installed at ZF Wind Power’s new Test & Prototype Centre in Lommel, Belgium – will be able to simulate the most arduous conditions that the world’s largest offshore wind turbines might experience. It will replicate varying loads on nacelle components including gearboxes and drivetrains.

Using Halt (highly accelerated lifetime testing) techniques, prototype wind turbines will be exposed to the equivalent of 20 years of operating in extreme weather conditions in just a few months, to discover the limitations of the turbine designs and to determine their reliability.

“Wind loads, and directions, can vary greatly, and each change creates loading on the nacelle powertrain,” explains Ralf Nieschler, key account manager at the Danish wind turbine test specialist, R&D Test Systems, which is developing and building the facility. “This new test rig must be much more powerful than the powertrain it tests, providing proof that the next generation of offshore turbines – of say, 20MW – are capable of operating reliably in extreme offshore conditions.

“The force of gusts wind can be a bit like a herd of elephants, pushing the blade around,” he adds. “This twisting and bending of the powertrain in all possible directions in the test rig will simulate the effect of 20 years of wind conditions in just a few months.”

The two 30MW motors at either end of the rig will allow two nacelle components – for example, two powertrains or two gearboxes – to be tested simultaneously, leading to significant time savings.

In addition, a load system between the nacelle components will simulate wind loads that might be encountered in the real world. It will be able to replicate not only the harshest wind loads, but also the effects of wind coming from different directions.

The rig will be able to produce a drive torque of 45MNm – equivalent to dangling 30 cars from the end of a 100m-long turbine blade – as well as bending moments of up to 64MNm.

The team working on the project includes electrical, systems, software and mechanical engineers. Civil engineering expertise will also be needed for the reinforced concrete foundations that will need to withstand extreme fatigue and wind loads during the tests, as well as carrying the weight of the test rig and of the powertrain under test which could add several hundred tonnes.

The rig will be transported from Denmark to Belgium in modules. Part of the project is a 300-tonne lifting capacity crane for mounting powertrains onto the rig.

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