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Bearings capable of self-diagnosis for offshore wind turbines

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Laulagun Bearings and IK4-IKERLAN have developed components which assess their own condition


30/10/2015

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  • They will make it possible to anticipate possible failures, which will contribute to a reduction in offshore energy exploitation costs
  • This product has been developed within the framework of the Smart-Bearing project, funded by the EEA Grants programme

The bearings are one of the components of the offshore wind turbines which are most costly to repair or replace, given that a crane vessel is required. With the aim of decreasing the operation and maintenance costs in the offshore wind farms, the company Laulagun Bearings, in collaboration with IK4-IKERLAN, has developed bearings capable of self-diagnosing and reporting their condition to the wind turbine control system.

This development makes it possible to know the condition of the bearing at all times and foresee any possible failure. It must be taken into account that this type of installations are located in remote and hostile environments with difficult access.

To be able to know in advance the problems with the performance of one of these bearings allows damages to be minimised and maintenance works to be coordinated with the times when it is possible to access the wind turbine (when there is good weather or because it was already scheduled).

These bearings have been developed within the framework of the Smart-Bearing project, supported by the EEA Grants Programme. This initiative, jointly funded by Spain, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, aims to contribute to the reduction of financial and social differences between the European countries and strengthen their interrelations.
This two-year project is in its final phase, in which tests are being performed with the monitoring and sensor system developed.

Predictive technology

The importance of predictive technologies, such as that developed in the Smart-Bearing project, has to do with the high maintenance cost of the offshore wind farms. In fact, the operation and maintenance cost reduction for this type of installation is one of the main concerns of companies.

The bearing developed by Laulagun Bearings and IK4-IKERLAN incorporates hardware and software elements which allow it to detect its condition. The developed sensorisation system is capable of identifying the appearance of cracks and cavities in the bearing tracks in their early phases.

The information gathered by the sensors is sent via a wireless system to a processing unit embedded in the bearing. This unit diagnoses the condition of the bearing and, when applicable, reports the maintenance actions which need to be performed.

The new product developed in the Smart-Bearing project makes it possible to carry out corrective measures which prolong the maximum useful life of the bearing and reduce the maintenance costs for the wind turbine.

Offshore wind power

Onshore wind power is one of the most technologically mature technologies for exploiting renewable resources. However, different factors related to the types of wind available, the lack of space or visual impact are increasingly boosting offshore wind power.

These types of installations have some characteristics which differentiate them from those located on dry land: the wind turbines are bigger and have greater power, the access to the farms is much more complicated and, as a result of these two aspects, the maintenance costs are much higher.

The market tends to demand more and more these types of installations, but for them to be profitable it is essential to reduce these costs. Predictive maintenance strategies such as that developed by Laulagun Bearings and IK4-IKERLAN offer a solution to this need.

About IK4-IKERLAN

IK4-IKERLAN is a leading centre for the transfer of technology and for enhancing business competitiveness through comprehensive solutions combining different technological domains. This is possible due to its high degree of specialisation in six main areas: embedded systems, power electronics, micro-technologies, energy efficiency and storage, mechatronics and advanced manufacturing.

Project details

Name: SMART-BEARING: Smart Offshore Bearing: Sensing, Monitoring and Diagnosis
EEA Grants Programme
Funding organisation: CDTI
Contract No.: IDI-20140063
Project manager: Laulagun Bearings
Participants: Laulagun Bearings, IK4-Ikerlan, NorMec

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