Roller Sliding in Wind Turbine Gearbox High-Speed-Shaft Bearings

Jonathan Keller, Yi Guo, David Vaes, Pietro Tesini

Research output: NRELPresentation


Failures in gearbox bearings have been a primary source of reliability issues for wind turbine drivetrains, leading to costly downtime and unplanned maintenance. The most common failure mode is attributed to so-called white-etching cracks (WECs). This mode of failure can occur at 5%-20% of the predicted design life and has been observed in many other industries, bearing locations, bearing types, bearing parts, and steel types. The main drivers for the creation of WECs in steel specimens have been identified and verified by material testing. In a full-scale wind turbine gearbox, however, the conditions leading to WECs, the process by which this failure culminates, and the reasons for their apparent prevalence are all still highly debated. In a collaborative project, Flender Corporation, SKF and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have instrumented a commercial drivetrain, installed it in a wind turbine, and operated the turbine for over a year. In this report, these measurements are used to validate two different modelling approaches for bearing sliding, one analytical dynamic model and one multi-body model. Once validated, these models can then be used to evaluate the roller slip losses or cumulative frictional energy that are each considered as potential driving factors for wind turbine gearbox bearing failures by WEC.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages27
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the 4th Conference for Wind Power Drives 2019, 12-13 March 2019, Aachen, Germany

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5000-73428


  • drivetrain reliability
  • gearbox
  • reliability
  • roller sliding
  • shaft bearings
  • wind turbine


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