ZF Wind Power Orders 30 MW Test Bench from R&D Test Systems

Danish company R&D Test Systems will develop a 30 MW powertrain and gearbox test bench for ZF Wind Power’s future Test & Prototype Center in Lommel, Belgium, and deliver the system in 2024.

The test rig, with its two 30 MW motors and a length of 60 metres, will be the most powerful powertrain and gearbox test bench and represents the largest order to date for the Danish wind turbine test technology specialist.

“This new test rig must be much more powerful than the powertrain it tests, providing proof that the next generation of offshore turbines of, say, 20MW are capable of operating reliably in extreme offshore conditions over the defined lifetime”, Ralf Nieschler, Key Account Manager, R&D Test Systems.

The test rig will be developed at R&D Test Systems’ headquarters in Denmark, where a team of 35 full-time engineers has already started working on the project together with international specialist suppliers.

From Denmark, the test bench will be transported in individual modules to Belgium.

The project will also draw on civil engineering expertise for the reinforced concrete foundation that needs to be strong enough to withstand the extreme fatigue and ultimate wind loads during tests as well as the powertrain itself that can weigh several hundred tonnes, R&D Test Systems says.

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Capable of simulating the multiplicity of wind loads that a nacelle powertrain might experience in its lifetime, the test rig will help improve product reliability and shorten time to market, the rig’s developer says.

“The force of gusts wind can be a bit like a herd of elephants, pushing the blade around. This twisting and bending of the powertrain in all possible directions in the test rig will simulate the effect of 20 years of wind conditions in just a few months”, Nieschler said.

The test rig employs the company’s “back-to-back” concept, where two nacelle components – for example two powertrains or two gearboxes – are tested simultaneously. This will lead to significant time savings, according to R&D Test Systems.

Performing high-torque twisting, the 30 MW motors are positioned on each end of the nacelle components under test. Additionally, a specially designed load unit is located between the nacelle components and provides the wind loads needed to simulate the varying real-world conditions.

Together, the motors and the load unit can simulate both the harshest loads of wind and the effect of wind coming from different directions.

“Despite weighing 5700 tons and with a drive torque of 45 million Nm – equivalent to the load of 30 family cars dangling from the end of a 100-meter turbine blade – and a bending moment of up to 64 million Nm, the test rig can cope with test components of varying dimensions”, R&D Test Systems said.

During the development of the 30 MW test rig, R&D Test Systems will apply its experiences in highly accelerated lifetime testing (HALT), where wind turbine prototypes are exposed to the equivalent of 20 years of weather conditions in a few months to discover the physical limitations of a design and ascertain product reliability.

In December last year, the company delivered what it considers to currently be the world’s largest, most powerful HALT test bench for wind turbine nacelles to the Danish test centre Lindø Offshore Renewables Centre (LORC).

That test rig features a 25 MW drive motor and can accommodate the next generation of larger 16-18 MW wind turbines.

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Commenting on the latest contract with ZF Wind Power, Peter Ulrikkeholm, CEO of R&D Test Systems said: “To be awarded with a project of this size to develop the world’s most powerful powertrain test rig for wind turbines is a recognition of R&D Test Systems’ proven development expertise in specialised, large-scale and powerful test rigs in the wind power industry”.

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Photo: R&D Test Systems