SKF has traditionally been an important bearing, lubricant and system supplier for onshore wind turbines, the ones most commonly seen from roadsides. But the real growth area, as evidenced by the flurry of activity in the port of Esbjerg, is in the offshore sector where SKF has a growing presence.
“Bigger turbines, gearboxes, generators and heavier loads place new demands on bearing systems, and this is something we are very experienced with,” says Scheibner. “For this reason, we are collaborating very closely with Vattenfall on a number of key offshore wind projects.”
According to Scheibner, standard catalogue spherical roller bearings used in wind turbine main shafts have a good and proven track record, with some lasting up to 20 years, given proper service intervals. But there are limits.
In collaboration with wind turbine manufacturers, SKF closely analysed the technical features of offshore wind applications and developed a new range of spherical roller bearings specifically for wind applications. One of these new bearings has been in operation in Denmark since February 2016, on an NM 80 land-based turbine at the Tjæreborg Enge wind park situated 10 kilometres south of Esbjerg. SKF and Vattenfall are closely following the performance of this bearing from the SKF monitoring centre and the Vattenfall monitoring centre in Esbjerg. This is the heart of the maintenance operation in Esbjerg. A bank of monitors can, at the click of a mouse, show the running condition of wind parks in detail, down to a single turbine. It is a complex task where early prediction is essential in order to bundle upcoming interventions for main components; crane vessels are expensive.