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GEARBOXES


FEATURE SPONSOR


CLEARING THE PATH TO EFFECTIVE


GEARBOX INSPECTIONS Exploring the challenges of videoscopes that need to produce clear images in the dark, oily conditions of turbine gearboxes


Inspecting the gearbox of a wind turbine is among the most time-consuming and difficult videoscope inspections. The combination of large size, dark conditions inside the gearbox, reflective metallic surfaces and presence of oil all make it hard for an inspector to detect damage.


HARSH OPERATING CONDITIONS


In addition, the conditions under which wind turbine gearboxes operate make them vulnerable to damage. High speeds and high stresses mean that small defects can easily lead to gearbox failure or even to turbine fires. Measurement tools such as vibration sensors can monitor potential damage continuously, but only remote visual inspection (RVI) provides a thorough analysis of the state of a gearbox (figure 1). So where does an inspector look when inspecting a gearbox?


FIG 1: RVI


inspection using a videoscope is a fast and efficient way to detect faults in turbine gearboxes


BEARING THE BRUNT


The function of the gearbox is to convert the slow rotation of the blades and the low speed shaft into a fast rotation to drive the generator. This process takes place in a series of transmissions (figure 2). During an inspection all these transmissions need to be inspected; this includes gear teeth and the bearings that support the shafts.


A typical wind turbine gearbox contains three shafts: the low speed shaft, the intermediary shaft and the high speed shaft. The low speed shaft is directly driven by the blades and only rotates at a speed of between 20 and 30 revolutions per minute (rpm). However, in adverse weather conditions the low speed shaft needs to be able to absorb the extra stresses caused by strong


FIG 2: A series of transmissions delivers the energy generated by the blades to the generator


winds. The high speed shaft, on the other hand, in better protected against adverse weather, but is vulnerable due to the high speeds of between 1500 and 1800 rpm.


All three shafts are surrounded by stage bearings; these provide support to the different shafts by preventing sideways motion. Some of these bearings – the


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www.windenergynetwork.co.uk


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