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Testing's Critical Role in Wind Power Development

Before wind can become a globally competitive energy alternative, wind turbines must be made more reliable and durable.

The world urgently needs to develop clean, sustainable resources for meeting skyrocketing energy demands. With its infinite supply and minuscule environmental impact, wind power has emerged as perhaps the most promising potential source of renewable, non-polluting energy. Numerous current government-sponsored initiatives reveal the degree to which the world is counting on wind power to solve our energy problems.

But before any of these initiatives can be accomplished, significant improvements must first be made to the wind turbines that are central to cultivating the wind’s energy.

Wind turbine systems regularly succumb to the tremendous loads and moments involved with their operation, requiring significant repair or even reconstruction. Industry experts have concluded that if a wind turbine design cannot endure at least a 20-year lifespan, the technology is not economically justifiable.

Therefore, improving wind turbine reliability and durability is critical to realizing the promise of a clean, sustainable and efficient global wind power infrastructure. Such improvements will occur during the product development phase, by gleaning highly accurate insight into how prototypes, components and materials will withstand the real-world operating conditions under which they must ultimately perform.

Those who achieve these improvements first will become industry leaders, and will likely enjoy a windfall of highly lucrative projects from around the world.

This is where mechanical testing comes in. Researchers and product developers in other industries already leverage mechanical testing to help them accurately gauge long-term product performance in real-world operating conditions, often with tests that involve massive specimens and excessive forces, similar to what is required for wind turbine testing. For example, aerospace engineers routinely subject their prototypes to the same loads and moments that they will ultimately face when airborne. Civil engineers subject their buildings and bridges under development to similar testing.

Mechanical testing provides the same advantages to wind turbine development. That is why many forward-thinking manufacturers, suppliers and research facilities are increasingly integrating wind turbine testing to their operations. Applications include:

Blade static testing
- Used for performing stiffness and strength measurements
- Tests conducted for blade certification and FEM model validation
- Control tools similar to those used in aerospace static structural testing
- Employs electric winch and/or hydraulic actuation
- Exerts multiple pull points on blade simultaneously

Blade fatigue testing

- Used for performing fatigue testing required for blade certification
- Hydraulic actuator is run at resonance to excite blade and
  achieve desired strain state
- Tests typically conducted in two directions: flap-wise and edge-wise

Drive line system and component testing
- Used to perform testing of complete nacelles
- Includes generators, full mechanical drive line assemblies,
  gearboxes and bearing systems
- Applies rotation input with torque, as well as off-axis loads 
  (3 forces, 2 moments) also known as “non-torque loads”

Base and yaw bearing testing
Used to perform a variety of mechanical tests, including:
- Static deflection and stiffness measurements
- Evaluating performance under load: friction and yaw drive
  system measurement, including start/stop torques
- Bearing durability and fatigue testing

Hub and blade pitch bearing testing
Used to perform a variety of mechanical tests, including:
- Static deflection and stiffness measurement
- Performance under load testing, such as friction and blade
  pitch system measurement including start/stop torques
- Bearing durability and fatigue testing

Structural seismic and modal testing

- Used to subject wind turbine structures to highly realistic
  seismic simulations in six degrees of freedom
- Unmatched insight into the effects of real-world earthquake events
- Also used for modal testing

Materials testing
- Used to perform static and fatigue testing of glass-fiber-reinforced
  polymer matrix composites
- Measures anistropic properties of composite materials used in self-feathering
 -Also used for testing carbon-fiber composites under consideration for
  longer-turbine blades


MTS Systems

14000 Technology Drive
Eden Prairie, MN USA

Tel: 952.937.4000
Tel: 800.328.2255
Fax: 952.937.4515
Email: ContactMTSBrasil@mts.com