Wind Turbine Main Bearing Rating Lives as Determined by IEC 61400-1 and ISO 281

Jarred Kenworthy, Edward Hart, James Stirling, Adam Stock, Jonathan Keller, Yi Guo, James Brasseur, Rhys Evans

Research output: NRELPresentation


This presentation studies the rating lives of wind turbine main bearings, as determined by the IEC 61400-1 and ISO 281 standards. A brief review of relevant bearing life theory and turbine design requirements is provided. This includes a discussion on possible shortcomings, including the existence (or not) of the bearing fatigue load limit and the validity of assuming linear damage accumulation. A detailed study is then undertaken to determine rating lives for two models of main bearing in a 1.5 MW wind turbine. Rating life assessment is carried out under different conditions, including various combinations of main bearing temperature, wind field characteristics, lubricant viscosity and contamination levels. Rating lives are found to be sufficiently above the desired 20 year design life for both bearing models under expected operating conditions. For the larger bearing, operational loads are shown to be below or close to the bearing fatigue load limit a vast majority of the time. Key sensitivities for rating life values are shown to be the temperature and contamination. Overall, the results of this study suggest that rating life assessment does not account for reported rates of main bearing failures in 1 to 3 MW wind turbines. In future work, it is recommended that efforts be undertaken to identify principal root causes of main bearing failures, possibly leading to a new application standard specific to this component. It is also recommended that impacts of partial wake impingement on main bearing rating lives are investigated.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the Wind Energy Science Conference (WESC), 23-26 May 2023, Glasgow, Scotland

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5000-86299


  • main bearing
  • reliability
  • wind turbine


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