Romax & partners selected by US government to drive wind turbine innovation

Romax Technology has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as the lead mechanical engineer in a consortium that will develop an innovative wind turbine drivetrain design, as part of a $3m USD project run by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

The project was developed with the brief of studying advanced drivetrain technology that can be scaled for large turbines and ultimately reduce the cost of wind energy. Romax is contributing its mechanical engineering and wind turbine expertise to a consortium which includes the NREL, CREE, DNV, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, GE Wind and Vattenfall Windpower.

The team has an unparalleled level of design, build, test and commercialisation expertise and has developed a drivetrain design that will increase reliability, improve efficiency and reduce the cost of wind power. The team’s concept will scale to ratings as high as 10MW whilst maintaining the lowest possible costs.

The Romax gearbox design will consist of a single, planetary stage that reduces part numbers by eliminating higher speed gear stages, and investigates the use of planet journal bearings for minimizing planet stage size.

Romax’s involvement in the project started in 2011 when it was selected to be part of an NREL team that competed against six other groups to conduct a study of advanced drivetrain technologies. The team was one of only two awarded funding for a follow-on phase to build a prototype and demonstrate the commercialisation of the technology.

Christopher Halse, Romax US Engineering Manager, commented: “After successfully completing phase one, phase two will give us the opportunity to fabricate and test a megawatt-scale prototype drivetrain to prove our design innovations. The drivetrain will be tested in the NREL’s 2.5MW dynamometer and will utilise the NREL’s newly commissioned Controllable Grid Interface (CGI) to replicate the loads wind turbines undergo in the field.”

“Upon successful completion of testing, technology readiness levels will be determined and combined with a commercialisation plan that will ultimately lead to global deployment of the drivetrain technologies. Our six years of close collaboration with the NREL is a clear indication of Romax’s commitment to driving innovation in the wind energy industry.”

Jon Keller from the NREL commented: “There have been reliability concerns with traditional high speed gearbox designs resulting from the impacts of large and unpredictable loads imparted on the gears and bearings.  These types of loads are caused both by the wind acting on the rotor and by utility faults to the wind turbine gearbox through the generator. It is these factors we are striving to address and through the consortium we have every confidence that all the parties involved will play a significant role in improving the drivetrain’s overall reliability.”

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