A Systems Engineering Analysis of Three-Point and Four-Point Wind Turbine Drivetrain Configurations

Y. Guo, T. Parsons, K. Dykes, R. N. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus Citations


This study compares the impact of drivetrain configuration on the mass and capital cost of a series of wind turbines ranging from 1.5 MW to 5.0 MW power ratings for both land-based and offshore applications. The analysis is performed with a new physics-based drivetrain analysis and sizing tool, Drive Systems Engineering (DriveSE), which is part of the Wind-Plant Integrated System Design & Engineering Model. DriveSE uses physics-based relationships to size all major drivetrain components according to given rotor loads simulated based on International Electrotechnical Commission design load cases. The model's sensitivity to input loads that contain a high degree of variability was analyzed. Aeroelastic simulations are used to calculate the rotor forces and moments imposed on the drivetrain for each turbine design. DriveSE is then used to size all of the major drivetrain components for each turbine for both three-point and four-point configurations. The simulation results quantify the trade-offs in mass and component costs for the different configurations. On average, a 16.7% decrease in total nacelle mass can be achieved when using a three-point drivetrain configuration, resulting in a 3.5% reduction in turbine capital cost. This analysis is driven by extreme loads and does not consider fatigue. Thus, the effects of configuration choices on reliability and serviceability are not captured. However, a first order estimate of the sizing, dimensioning and costing of major drivetrain components are made which can be used in larger system studies which consider trade-offs between subsystems such as the rotor, drivetrain and tower.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)537-550
Number of pages14
JournalWind Energy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-66339


  • cost optimization
  • drivetrain design
  • sensitivity analysis
  • systems engineering


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