Harnessing Reliable Wind Energy with Gearing Solutions
August 13, 2018
As the wind comes sweeping down the plains of America these days, it passes through fields of wind turbines. As the energy market turns towards renewable sources of energy, many are turning to wind as an efficient and sustainable source of power. The industry is restricted, however, by the Betz limit, a theory that wind turbines can at most harness 59 percent of the kinetic energy of passing breezes (at 100 percent efficiency, there would be no wind to turn the blades). Then there’s the weather factor: even the most streamlined nacelle with perfectly balanced blades is only as reliable as the wind, fickle and changing day to day. In order to maximize electrical production and approach that 59 percent efficiency, wind turbines depend on yaw drives to point the blades in the direction of wind.
QED Wind Power manufactures the Phoenix 20 kW wind turbine systems suitable for farms, residences and small commercial applications. They pride themselves on reliability—if the wind is blowing, the turbines are turning—an ideal they live up to through innovative design and quality American-made parts. Yaw Drives from Gearing Solutions help ensure the turbines are facing the wind, maximizing efficiency and ensuring reliability.
According to Steve Saal, chief operating officer, when QED was looking into manufacturing the Phoenix 20 kW turbine, the competition on the market was all manufactured in China. The team wanted parts made in America, to ensure quality control and better access to repair parts. QED got their wish, and the Phoenix is a veritable tour of American manufacturing: the blades come from Texas, the meteorological sensors from Oregon, and the Yaw Drive from Gearing Solutions in Solon, Ohio.
When researching Yaw Drive suppliers, Saal and his team talked with several suppliers who wanted to sell them what they had on the shelf, missing the details of their specific needs. The engineering staff at Gearing Solutions talked with QED several times before producing their first prototype.
Gearing Solution engineers helped design the drive shaft to be hardier and more robust, increasing the shaft size and upping the three-phase motor to 1.5 hp. Gearing Solutions also designed the Yaw Drive with grease discs rather than gear oil, to make maintenance easier. After several months of testing and revisions in shaft size and material, the new Yaw Drive was ready.
Gearing Solution’s Yaw Drives combine unique roller gear technology with innovative gear construction to optimize the gearbox and minimize size. Gearing Solution’s gearboxes are 50 percent shorter than standard and can manage 30 hp and higher, redirecting the turbine alignment so the blades face the wind and produce the maximum amount of energy at all times.
With the addition of an internal roller gear, driver and multiple planets, Gearing Solutions increased load capacities up to 300 percent, an unparalleled power to weight ratio. Aluminum housings make the drive 50 percent lighter, creating a premium weight to torque ratio inside a small profile. The small profile allows the nacelle of the turbine to be as lightweight and aerodynamic as possible. The lighter weight also allows the Yaw Drive to be easily installed and repaired, despite working at height in a restricted space environment.
Renewable Power is Breezy Work
Despite their lighter weight, Gearing Solutions Yaw Drives are built to provide years of trouble-free service. The QED tower systems lower the complete tower to ground level for ease of access and increased safety while performing maintenance. Still, lowering the tower causes downtime for repairs.
The Gearing Solutions Yaw Drives’ durability reduces downtime, ensuring the turbines are constantly generating energy. Many Gearing Solutions Yaw Drives have been in continued service for more than five years without ever causing downtime in a production turbine.
“We take it for granted,” Saal said, “It’s like a door in your house that you don’t think much about until it falls off the hinges. And this one hasn’t fallen off the hinges.”
With the reliably durable Gearing Solutions Yaw Drive, QED Wind Power can be sure that their wind turbines are harnessing the maximum amount of wind available. Gearing Solutions’ power-to-weight ratio helps ensure the turbines keep the power on for years to come—no matter which way the wind blows.