Comparison of Planetary Bearing Load-Sharing Characteristics in Wind Turbine Gearboxes

Jonathan Keller, Yi Guo, Zhiwei Zhang, Doug Lucas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus Citations


In this paper, the planetary load-sharing behavior and fatigue life of different wind turbine gearboxes when subjected to rotor moments are examined. Two planetary bearing designs are compared-one design using cylindrical roller bearings with clearance and the other design using preloaded tapered roller bearings to support both the carrier and planet gears. Each design was developed and integrated into a 750 kW dynamometer tests, the loads on each planet bearing row were measured and compared to finite-element models. Bearing loads were not equally shared between the set of cylindrical roller bearings supporting the planets even in pure torque conditions, with one bearing supporting up to 46 % more load than expected. A significant improvement in planetary bearing load sharing was demonstrated in the gearbox with preloaded tapered roller bearings with maximum loads 20 % lower than the gearbox with cylindrical roller bearings. Bearing life was calculated with a representative duty cycle measured from field tests. The predicted fatigue life of the eight combined planet and carrier bearings for the gearbox with preloaded tapered roller bearings is 3.5 times greater than for the gearbox with cylindrical roller bearings. The influence of other factors, such as carrier and planet bearing clearance, gravity, and tangential pin position error, is also investigated. The combined effect of gravity and carrier bearing clearance was primarily responsible for unequal load sharing. Reducing carrier bearing clearance significantly improved load sharing, while reducing planet clearance did not. Normal tangential pin position error did not impact load sharing due to the floating sun design of this three-planet gearbox.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)947-960
Number of pages14
JournalWind Energy Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-71200


  • gearboxes
  • planetary load-sharing
  • wind turbines


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