The Future of Gearboxes, part 1: High Torque Heritage and Logistical Limits

Windpower Monthly, in collaboration with Moventas, hosted a roundtable discussion on wind gearbox innovation at WindEurope 2019. With industry experts from General ElectricAccionaSiemens GamesaABBInnogy, Windpower Monthly, and Wood MacKenzie, the different stages in the supply chain were represented during the conversation. The discussion gave insights to near and long-term market developments.

The first topic of the discussion was the growing turbine sizes and the challenges they set for the entire wind industry. Larger turbines demand better gearboxes with higher torque and ratios. The increase in rotor diameters, tower height and torque requirements are pushing the limits of the logistics.

Windpower Monthly editor Shaun Campbell asked the participants whether the industry is approaching transport and logistical limits in the movement, installation and maintenance of very large components.

Jaco Nies, Chief Consulting Engineer for Systems Engineering at GE said: ‘If we practise for long enough, and close enough to the logistical limits, companies will learn how to deal with larger components. If you look at the Cypress platform, where we take the tip off the blade and transport separately, the logistical problems are not zero but they’re simplified. Looking at gearboxes 15/20 years ago they were much thicker and now they are smaller in diameter but slightly longer’.

‘So yes, there are logistical constraints, but there are also developments on the way to deal with them. People are innovative, and we are constantly redefining these limitations.’

Moventas’ heritage has enabled it to answer market requirements and limitations, such as torque and ratio demand, posed on gearboxes both in the past and the future. Moventas was the first in the industry to provide the high torque density Exceed gearbox solution in 2014. Its technology roadmap supports both medium and high speed platforms, maximised energy output, CAPEX utilisation, and the introduction of innovative and evolutionary gearbox technologies.

With higher towers increasing OPEX in forms such as crane costs, the participants also discussed transport and crane limitations. Albrecht Schoettle, senior drivetrain expert at Innogy, said ‘technology changes as does the market. With the ability to separate the tower sections and the climbing cranes, we are moving past the limitations. If you have the money!’

Kari Uusitalo, Head of Technology and Conceptual Design at Moventas remarked: ‘At Moventas we’ve done studies related to the market needs and limitations. We do not see transportation becoming a limiting matter for geared drivetrains. Existing diameters can be kept up to ~8 MNm input torque.’

Shashi Barla, Senior Analyst at Wood Mackenzie agreed, saying ‘more than drivetrains, we have seen blades and towers becoming the most challenging areas from a logistics point of view with the real tipping point being somewhere between 70 and 80m blades.’


A comment from a Moventas specialist on the topic of the article:


Wind gearbox expert

Jussi Saastamoinen, Moventas Product Engineer

“Here at Moventas, the transport requirements are taken into account right from the start of the product design process, and logistics always aim for cost-effective solutions. Even though our products are highly optimized, the interface dimensions and mass often require special haulage. This, however, will not be a problem, as there are many operators to work with. Also, as mentioned before, the gearbox is not – and will not be – the most challenging part of the wind turbine to transport, so the logistical issues most likely appear with other main components.

Additionally, we have an on-going project that focuses on finding recycling possibilities for the transport-related components. We are constantly looking for innovative ways to tackle any possible logistical and productional limitations.”



Read the part 2 of the article here.

Read the whole article here:

The article was originally published at The first chapter and the quotation at the end are Moventas’ additions.

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