Prolonging wind gearboxes

Alstom wind business founder and advanced technology vice-president, Pep Prats presented information about newly-available wind turbine design at a series of workshops for investors in December 2010.

The design allows the drive train and, particularly, the gearbox to last for the entire lifetime of the turbine and require only minimal maintenance, according to Alstom. This can slash the costs of repairs, maintenance and replacements for new wind farms being built in Australia and New Zealand.

According to Alstom, a recent US report states the industry standard for gearbox life is only between 7 and 11 years during the 20-year lifetime of conventional wind turbines.

“In the Alstom ‘Pure Torque’ design, the shaft and gearbox of the turbine do not support the weight of the rotor and are protected from damaging bending loads,” Alstom Wind Asia Pacific sales director, Jeff Cheong said.

“With the potential for a carbon price being set next year, investors are preparing to make decisions that will be in play for the next 20 or 30 years. For banks and shareholders the reliability and uptime of turbines has a significant impact on costs and profitability,” Mr Cheong said.

The wind turbine technology has been installed throughout Europe during the past three decades and is now being offered for the first time in Australia. Alstom’s turbines have been installed at several Japanese wind farms already, as it is durable under typhoon conditions and requires minimal maintenance in remote locations.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the global annual market in wind power grew 41.5 per cent in 2009. The five-year outlook from GWEC forecasts that global wind power will double between 2010 and 2014.