Wind Turbine Main Bearing Rating Lives as Determined by IEC 61400-1 and ISO 281: A Critical Review and Exploratory Case Study

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


This paper studies the rating lives of wind turbine main bearings, as determined by the IEC 61400-1 and ISO 281 standards. A critical review of relevant bearing life theory and turbine design requirements is provided, including discussion on possible shortcomings such as the existence (or not) of the bearing fatigue load limit and the validity of assuming linear damage accumulation. A detailed exploratory case 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 temperature and contamination. Overall, the results of this study suggest that an ISO 281 rating life assessment does not account for reported rates of main bearing failures in 1 to 3 MW wind turbines. It is recommended that a similar analysis be undertaken for ISO/TS 16281 rating lives, along with further efforts to identify principal root causes of main bearing failures in future work, possibly leading to a new application standard specific to this component. It is also recommended that the impacts of partial wake impingement on main bearing rating lives are investigated.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)179-197
Number of pages19
JournalWind Energy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-86901


  • design standards
  • main bearing
  • rating life
  • rolling contact fatigue
  • wind turbine


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