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A novel approach to wind turbine design

01 June 2008

Romax’s philosophy is to develop wind turbine design and simulation software in partnership with its clients. This approach has seen some interesting introductions to the company’s portfolio, not least being the new RomaxWIND suite for gearbox design and analysis, which can be used in conjunction with other leading proprietary software tools for this sector

China has one of the world’s fastest growing economies and its increasing energy needs, combined with the drive for CO2 reductions, has created a wind energy industry, which, at the end of 2007 had an installed capacity in excess of 6,000MW. Current forecasts are predicting an increase to 50,000MW by 2015. This drive for quantity also pushes the need for quality and Chinese producers have shown a keen interest in UK engineering expertise to develop more efficient and reliable turbines.

Baoding Tianwei is one of China’s largest transformer and electric transmission system producers, and is committed to developing its capabilities for the wind energy sector. The Chinese company recently called on transmission engineering consultancy and software developer, Romax Technology, to assist in the design of the main rotor bearing housing of a 1.5MW turbine.

Romax has worked with a number of industry leaders in this field, and its wind energy portfolio includes work across a range of drive train issues, from hub to gearbox. The current joint project with Baoding Tianwei has enabled the company to expand its work in this sector and use its innovative ‘whole system’ approach to design a critical component of the turbine.

Huge stresses
As they are sited in exposed locations and frequently endure extremes of weather, wind turbines are subject to huge stresses, all of which places great demands on the integrity of their design and manufacture. Bearings and their housings are critical to the life and efficiency of a turbine, and the effects of poor design may be felt throughout the drive line. Romax project manager, Yongle Song takes up the story:

“The entire turbine is a flexible body subject to complex dynamic loading that can affect the gearbox housing. Loads exerted on the housing can cause it to deflect, leading to misalignment of gears and bearings. The typical approach to the housing design is one that is completely separate from the design of all other major components. However, we have developed a ‘whole system’ approach that enables us to understand the interaction between components. This leads to a better design and - crucially - more reliable turbines.”

The software -RomaxDesigner – was used in the design of the main rotor bearing housing. It takes into account the complete gearbox, large bearings and the drive train, including the flexibilities of gears, shafts, bearings, housings, carriers and their interactions. The designer is thus able to develop an understanding of one large, flexible structure containing accurate details of gears and bearings, in which system level and detailed information are given simultaneously. Consequently, both the static and dynamic properties of the system can be calculated with a high degree of accuracy. The software not only enables valid design decisions to be taken at the concept stage, but also helps to refine the various parameters to achieve best results in terms of reliability, noise and vibration, manufacturing and robustness.

Zhang Wanxiang, vice general director of Baoding Tianwei, worked directly with Dr Song, Romax principal engineer, Michael Barnes, and the wind turbine engineering team. He comments:

“Working with Romax Technology has allowed us to develop this critical component and take into account so many different factors within our design. The computer aided engineering simulation has proved invaluable, giving us confidence in the design, and we are very pleased with how the project has progressed.”

The work with Baoding Tianwei has been a success for both the manufacturer and for Romax Technology. It has enabled Romax’s wind energy team to develop their knowledge and understanding, and ultimately their capabilities within the wind turbine market. In addition, Baoding Tianwei, a relative newcomer to the industry, has benefited from Romax’s experience in rapid product development. Huge acceleration in their technical understanding of turbine drive trains has resulted in a durable and efficient product and helped build the company’s competitive advantage in the dynamic Chinese wind energy industry.

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