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Smart Wind Power for Emission-free Driving

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Tags: ZeroEmissions
Joris Peeters, November 14, 2018
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Joris Peeters Head of Digitalization ZF Wind Power
Where does emission-free driving start? We at ZF believe, it starts long before the electric drive begins to move the vehicle, with the production of renewable energy. As we aim to create a world with zero emissions while catering for the globally growing energy demand, we have to generate the energy we need in a sustainable way. The truth is: We can only drive truly emission-free, if the energy we are using is emission-free too.

The challenges we are facing: The electricity market requires more renewable energy for less money. Therefore, the wind industry is looking for ways to increase efficiency. ZF Wind Power’s Intelligent Gearboxes help the industry lower the cost of energy.
Supported by smart digital technology, we are able to avoid unexpected downtimes of wind turbines, extend their lifetime and increase their power output. All that eventually contributes to reducing the cost of wind energy.

We, at ZF Wind Power, have been developing, manufacturing and servicing wind turbine gearboxes successfully for 40 years. We have added digital technology to our recent development, the Intelligent Gearbox, to guarantee high availability of wind turbines. The new technology uses data from the gearbox: A “Digital Birth Certificate” . This document contains all the unique details of a manufactured gearbox, such as its configuration, full component traceability and quality test results. The Life Cycle Monitor comprises all information from the entire lifespan of the gearbox, ranging from its service logbook to highly dynamic signals from monitoring systems on the drive train, to detect anomalies.

When the wind is blowing, wind turbines should produce clean energy continuously. Avoiding downtimes is crucial in order not to forfeit energy production. Therefore, our Intelligent Gearbox supports pro-active maintenance and optimization of repair actions on the drive train.
How this works? Firstly, the service ensures the availability of the right spare parts for every individual gearbox at the right time and at the right place. Consumed lifetime analytics, based on ZF’s gearbox expertise combined with real measured loads, provide an indicator of its lifetime consumption per each individual gearbox component. These indicators combine statistically based remaining lifetime analytics, in order to optimize the spare parts management.
Secondly, monitoring solutions inside the Intelligent Gearbox triggers alerts indicating which particular wind turbine needs which repair solution. This way, pro-active maintenance can be efficiently planned, and a professional service team can ensure each wind turbine is up and running in the shortest time possible.

Wind turbines are typically designed to produce energy for 20 years. In addition, the energy production of a wind turbine is limited above nominal wind speed because of its design limitations. The ZF Intelligent Gearbox enables an increase in the energy yield of wind turbines by allowing lifetime extension beyond the design life and thus, increasing power output beyond the design constraints. These steps are based on ZF’s design models and gearbox expertise combined with the Life Cycle Monitor, which includes the actual loads of the individual wind turbine gearbox. Since knowledge of loads is crucial for this service, ZF also offers a unique ‘dynamic load monitoring’ solution (DLM). This device measures mechanical drive train torque and speed, including variations at high frequencies. It also provides the option of feeding this information into the wind turbine’s controller to reduce drive train loads further through active torque control. This technology contributes additionally to increasing the energy yield of wind turbines.

As for our vision of emission-free driving, a holistic view from well-to-wheel as well as a sharp look on future energy production seem to be the way forward and ensure a fair assessment whether e-mobility is really emission free or not.