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ZF Services powers energy provider inspection process

After experiencing a catastrophic main bearing failure in one of its wind turbines, a major renewable energy provider approached ZF, a leading wind turbine driveline specialist, to help develop a robust inspection strategy and dedicated tooling to facilitate the assessment of the bearing, in order to prepare for possible downtime in the future.

Working with ZF Services UK previously for gearbox support and repair, the energy provider was familiar with its expertise in the industry. The provider required a practical solution which could inspect the condition of the bearing inside its wind turbine, identifying when the component needed to be replaced, so that when the bearing was nearing the end of its life, it could be quickly and effectively replaced. Due to the restricted accessibility of the bearing, ZF also developed specialist tooling which could help access the bearing in the main shaft for inspection.

After experiencing two failures, the energy provider recognised the need for a robust inspection procedure which could ensure that, if there were any premature bearing issues which couldn’t always be identified through traditional condition monitoring techniques, plans were securely in place to ensure a replacement bearing was arranged and in stock, reducing downtime from up to nine months down to just a couple of days. Turbine downtime is costly, and previous failures had seen the turbine removed from service for a minimum of a month, resulting in loss of productivity.

After providing their requirements, ZF returned with a full procedure for inspection and plans for tooling within weeks. The actual site inspection took just six hours to complete, rather than the expected full day, providing the energy provider with an estimate of when the bearing will decline and when a replacement is required. Undertaking an inspection before issues occur means an exchange plan can be put in place and the bearing ordered by ZF to ensure it’s in stock, allowing for a rapid overhaul and replacement once it does go out of service.

David Morgan of ZF Services UK explained: “While the bearings used in this turbine application have a very low failure rate, external issues such as debris and a rapid increase in temperature can cause premature breakdown, which is why conducting an inspection is so valuable. For energy providers in particular, turbine downtime can be costly and when a turbine is out of service for weeks or months, the cost of lost revenue can run into tens of thousands of pounds. We were pleased to have developed a practical solution to support the organisation, and know that if failure does occur in the future, we will be able to provide a rapid repair and overhaul service, minimising downtime.”

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