With an increasing number of countries adopting a considerable share of wind energy into their energy mix, the wind market is maturing fast. To bring the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCoE) down, the major industry players find themselves in a race where the winner is the turbine with the maximum annual power output for the given site conditions at the sharpest possible investment costs. In the wind gearbox supply chain, this results in a rapid increase in torque requirements with new onshore developments exceeding 8000 kNm – and offshore doubling the onshore requirements. Such a fast-growing, diverse and dynamic market needs powerful modular products and a proactive approach to help wind-park owners, OEMs and other partners get the most out of wind power and its limitless renewable energy.
Felix Henseler, CEO, ZF Wind Power, says: “We feel a proactive approach is needed in both the supply chain and in service. The dynamics of the diverse wind market, with different turbine models, configurations and operational locations, influence the right type of powertrain and service concept.” Each location has specific geographical and meteorological conditions, which means there are considerable variables to control when industrialising wind power production.``To deal with such variety, ZF has created a service concept called ‘Thrive’,” Henseler says. “It helps our partners get the most from wind power and their business.” By combining strong engineering and manufacturing with the latest technology, ZF aims to reduce service cost and make running a wind power business more straightforward and worthwhile. Henseler adds: “Our long-term investment in reliable gearboxes and associated digital solutions is one of the foundations for avoiding and simplifying service interventions both onsite and offsite.” Service doesn’t start with intervening. It starts with designing reliable products, making the most of common building blocks and reducing the need for different spare parts and services.
Empowering wind turbine evolution
It takes vision, commitment and investments to maximise reliability, efficiency and availability. Dr Martin Knops – CTO ZF Wind Power – explains: “Extensive validation is the strength of ZF’s reliable innovations. Validation and testing allow us to reduce the risks inherent to the wind industry: it is essential to receive approval from customers, insurers and certification agencies to launch new designs.” And it’s from this standpoint that ZF is growing its offering, investing, and forever driving a culture of standardisation and collaboration throughout the industry. Knops says: “To strengthen our position in the wind market we are investing in growing from our successful modular wind gearbox platforms to complete modular powertrain systems. We are building this very compact and powerful new generation of powertrains for onshore and offshore applications. We are taking on challenges, building modelling tools, introducing new production processes and sharing results with partners. We’re taking validation of future powertrain concepts to a whole new level.” ZF Wind Power is convinced that the evolutions and dynamics in the wind market will require a whole new level of testing and validation of modular powertrains that will drive the new generation of wind turbines.
Validation of dynamic behaviour of components, subsystems and complete powertrains will be essential in close cooperation with its partners. Take the preparations for the Vestas V236-15.0 MW – one of the largest and most powerful wind turbines ever developed – which Windpower Monthly reported on in May this year. WPM’s Eize de Vries describes the product development as “an impressive outcome of close cooperation between Vestas and ZF Wind Power... ZF Wind Power’s overall objective was to optimise and modularise existing production processes for the new designs and powertrain assembly.“ Thanks to this close collaboration, the joint teams were able to develop this fully integrated powertrain, which is, from ZF’s perspective, a unique pioneering solution for the wind market.” Future-proofing growth The Vestas project is a partnership example that lowers the LCoE and makes for viable business models alongside technological breakthroughs in new generation wind turbines. “It shows ZF’s commitment to partner with its customers in innovative projects to empower a sustainable future together,” says Henseler. “Thanks to close collaborations, joint teams can already develop pioneering solutions for the future wind market.