Main Bearing Replacement and Damage - A Field Data Study on 15 Gigawatts of Wind Energy Capacity

Edward Hart, Kaiya Raby, Jonathan Keller, Shawn Sheng, Hui Long, James Carroll, James Brasseur, Fraser Tough

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This study seeks to establish a comprehensive baseline of knowledge for the replacement and damage of main bearings in wind turbines. The purpose of this report is to provide a high-level summary of the data set, methodology, and results of this work. Full technical details and an extended analysis will be made available in a future publication. We collected data on main bearing replacements and reported damage from industrial partners based in Europe and the United States. In total, we obtained data for 167 wind power plants, with a combined capacity of 15.3 gigawatts (GW). Most of the data set was comprised of land-based, three-point mount, spherical roller bearings. Within this data set were 689 instances of main bearing replacement. Analysis was undertaken in two parts: first, a statistical analysis of the main bearing time-to-replacement data using survival analysis techniques; second, quantitative and qualitative analyses of the obtained damage information. Our results showed that 10% of a fixed main bearing population would be expected to have been replaced by 10.5 years. This is close to half of the 20-year design value. Fitted parametric distributions then indicated that by year 20, between 22% and 25% of main bearings are expected to have been replaced. Analysis of the damage reports revealed spalling to be the main type of damage listed. The additional presence of surface damage in the collected data indicates that at least part of the spalling cases are likely due to surface-initiated rolling contact fatigue. At this stage is not clear what proportion of spalling cases result from "wear induced", surface-initiated and subsurface-initiated rolling contact fatigue. While this work provides important insights into the current state of main bearing replacements and damage, many questions remain. An ongoing and expanding data collection and analysis effort focused on wind turbine main bearings is therefore recommended.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-86228


  • failure mode
  • main bearing
  • reliability


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