Dynamic testing of gearbox loads

Belgian firm Hansen Transmissions is set to invest more than EUR 10 million in a 13 MW test bench for the dynamic testing of wind turbine gearboxes. The Edegem-based company "wants to support its leading position in large size gearboxes for the wind turbine application," says Lena De Wachter for the company.

"As stated during the recent kick-off meeting of the technology platform for wind energy supported by the EU, wind turbines have come to a size where the industry can no longer borrow technology from other applications. Hansen has decided to be in the forefront of innovation and research of gearboxes for this application," she adds.

The new test infrastructure is being installed at the company's Lommel site in Belgium, where its multi-megawatt gearboxes for wind turbines are produced. Hansen Transmissions expect the infrastructure will be operational in mid-2007.

Contrary to conventional gearbox test rigs, which mostly have only stationary load capacity, the dynamic capabilities of the new test rig will allow it to simulate loads representing the wind dynamics acting on the real turbine. "This is so far unheard of in the size of a 13.2 MW test rig," stresses De Wachter. The purpose is to reduce the time it takes to validate design theory in practice by durability testing under a variety of dynamic loads, thereby increasing the overall reliability of the gearbox, she adds.

Peter Flamang, vice president of research, development and engineering at Hansen Transmissions, says the test bench means that the dynamic behaviour of gearboxes can be measured and simulations carried out with overload and faster durability tests.

The overload tests can also be carried out on the next generations of multi-megawatt gearboxes. The necessary flexibility is incorporated in order to be able to test different gearbox concepts, he says, adding that the preliminary design of the 13 MW test bench is based on "concepts that already exist and are proven."

Flamang contends that the Hansen test bench is unique and the company is "helping the wind energy market take the next step in technological evolution, especially in terms of reliability and optimisation of costs." Five new members of staff will be recruited.

Hansen has also announced a plan to invest more than EUR 140 million in expanding production capacity and research and development infrastructure, as well as the creation 300 new jobs. The first stage of this investment will be expanding Hansen's production facilities in Belgium following growing demand for gearboxes. To support the expansion, Hansen recently bought an extra 63,500 square metres of land adjacent to the existing plant, bringing the total surface of the Lommel plant up to 180,000 square metres or 40 football pitches.