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Hydrostatic hypothesis -- Ground level gearbox

Norwegian technology start-up ChapDrive has erected an old Vestas 225 kW turbine at Norway's Valsneset turbine test centre near Trondheim. But instead of the standard set-up, ChapDrive uses a hydrostatic gear system at the foot of the refurbished turbine, with only a hydraulic pump in the nacelle and not a gearbox. ChapDrive's hydrostatic gearbox technology, designed by professor Peter Chapple at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, is as efficient as a mechanical gearbox, its creators say.

For a larger 5 MW turbine, the company estimates that the hydraulic gearbox could reduce the weight of the nacelle by as much as 50%, cutting costs and maintenance. The company points out that downtime due to traditional gearbox technology failure accounts for a big chunk of a turbine's offline hours over its lifetime. It argues that the ChapDrive technology is especially relevant for the floating turbine technology Norway has been pouring money into and pinning future offshore hopes on (Windpower Monthly, September 2007). ChapDrive believes commercialisation is still some way off. The company's Åsmund Furuseth declines to comment on the prototype's performance over the past six months. The current challenge is to see how the hydrostatic system performs over time -- and to scale it up significantly. Last year, the company received a cash infusion of EUR 2.25 million from a group of investors including Statoil New Energy. Furuseth hints at an imminent company reorganisation.

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