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ZF gearboxes reliable even under extreme conditions

Wind power is the energy of the future. But wind turbines must be reliable. Even under extreme weather conditions. To that end, Sirris's OWI Lab tested ZF's 80-tonne gearboxes in its unique climate chamber at the port of Antwerp.

The OWI Lab – focusing on R&D for wind power – is a spearhead within the Sustainability expertise domain. Reliable wind turbines have a direct impact on both energy output and operating costs. That means that testing critical components is very important. ZF Wind Power Antwerpen delivers gearboxes for more than 2,000 wind turbines per year, 49 GW of wind energy capacity worldwide uses components supplied by this Flemish world player.  The company is also a leader in very large gearboxes (> 6 MW) used in offshore wind turbines. A prototype of this gearbox was tested in the OWI Lab climate chamber. Martijn Roozendaal, OWI Lab test technician, is proud of this test: “This was the first test for offshore wind turbines of this size in our climate chamber. Previously, we had only tested onshore gearboxes.”

80 tonnes

The OWI Lab took up the challenge and tested the absolute state-of-the-art of what will be installed in the North Sea: a gearbox weighing in at nearly 80 tonnes, capable of generating 6.15 MW. The component was tested at temperatures of -30 °C and 0 °C using the OWI Lab test bench and data acquisition system.

For ZF, testing it under extreme weather conditions is absolutely necessary. But the turbines keep getting bigger and so it is increasingly difficult to find appropriate testing facilities. Roozendaal: “Our unique climate chamber was the ideal solution for these kinds of tests.” The Sirris climate chamber can offer temperatures from -60 °C to +60 °C, reproducing the extreme conditions under which the wind turbines have to operate sometimes. The heavy gearboxes are now ready for duty in the North Sea.