The facility in the port of Antwerp has been established by the Offshore Wind Infrastructure Application Lab (OWI-Lab) to test the ability of turbines to deal with cold conditions of down to -60°C and temperatures of up to +60°C.
Mechanical, hydraulic and electrical turbine components up to 150 tonnes can be tested in this temperature range.
The facility can be used to test whole drive trains for smaller turbines of up to around 1.5MW and components such as gear boxes for machines of up to 10MW.
Wind turbine gearbox manufacturer ZF Wind Power Antwerp is the first to put the test bench through its paces.
Controlled laboratory tests were carried out at the facility on its 2.1MW gearbox in order to validate the cold start-up behaviour and cold start-up time of the machine in -40°C conditions.
A number of manufacturers have in recent years made moves to design turbines better able to cope with extreme cold.
Enercon, Siemens, Vestas, Senvion and Nordex have all released models with either anti-icing or de-icing systems.
It is not hard to see why, with cold-climate projects comprising a staggering 25% of the world wind market, according to consultancy BTM.
In the first calculation of the size of the cold-climate market ever undertaken, BTM said in June that it expects an installed capacity of 50GW by 2017.