NREL's Wind Turbine Drivetrain Condition Monitoring and Wind Plant Operation and Maintenance Research During the 2010s: A US Land-Based Perspective

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The wind industry has seen tremendous growth during the past two decades, with the global cumulative installation capacity reaching more than 650 gigawatts by the end of 2019. Despite performance and reliability improvements of utility-scale wind turbines over the years, the industry still experiences premature component failures, leading to increased operation and maintenance (O&M) costs. Among various turbine components, gearboxes—and, more broadly, drivetrains—have shown to be costly to maintain throughout the design life of a wind turbine. The problem of premature component failure is industry wide. As early as 2007, the US Department of Energy (DOE) started to address this challenge through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) reliability initiative that first focused on gearboxes and more recently expanded to entire drivetrains. The wind turbine drivetrain condition monitoring and wind plant O&M research that is the subject of this paper is part of the NREL initiative and includes a few research and development (R&D) activities conducted during the 2010s. These activities included technology evaluation during the first few years; novel monitoring technique investigation (specifically, compact filter analysis) during the middle years; and data and physics domain modeling for fault detection and prediction in recent years. A high-level summary of these activities is provided in this paper along with some key observations from each activity. Most of the work discussed has been published and can be referred to for more information. They reflect the expected evolution of wind turbine condition monitoring and O&M in the US market—primarily, a land-based perspective. In addition, we have identified several R&D opportunities that can be picked up by the research community to help industry advance in related areas, making wind power more cost competitive in the future.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)239-249
Number of pages11
JournalAcoustics Australia
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Australian Acoustical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-78628


  • Compact filter analysis
  • Condition monitoring
  • Data analytics
  • Drivetrain
  • Operation and maintenance
  • Wind turbine


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