Bearing failure in wind turbine gearboxes is one of the significant sources of downtime. While it is well known that bearing failures cause the largest downtime, the failure cause(s) is often elusive. The bearings are designed to satisfy their Rolling Contact Fatigue (RCF) life. However, they often undergo sudden and rapid failure within a few years of operation. It is well known that these premature failures are attributed to different types of surface damage. In that regard, transient torque reversals (TTRs) in the drivetrain have emerged as one of the primary triggers of surface damage, as explained in this paper. The risk associated with TTRs motivates the need to mitigate TTRs arising in the drivetrain due to various transient events. This paper investigates three TTR mitigation methods. First, two existing devices, namely, the torsional tuned mass damper and the asymmetric torque limiter, are studied. Then, a novel idea of open-loop high-speed shaft mechanical brake control is proposed. The results show that while the torsional tuned mass damper and the asymmetric torque limiter can improve the torsional vibration characteristics of the drivetrain, they cannot mitigate TTRs in terms of eliminating the bearing slip risk associated with TTRs. However, the novel approach proposed here can mitigate TTRs both in terms of improving the torque characteristic in the high-speed shaft and reducing the risk of bearing slip. Furthermore, the control method is capable of mitigating TTRs with the mechanical limitations of a pneumatic actuator in terms of bandwidth and initial dead time.
The adverse effect of transient torque reversals (TTRs) on wind turbine gearboxes can be severe due to their magnitude and rapid occurrence compared to other equipment. The primary damage is caused to the bearings as the bearing loaded zone rapidly changes its direction. Other components are also affected by TTRs (such as gear tooth); however, its impact on bearings is the largest. While the occurrence and severity of TTRs are acknowledged in the industry, there is a lack of academic literature on their initiation, propagation and the associated risk of damage. Furthermore, in the wide range of operation modes of a wind turbine, it is not known which modes can lead to TTRs. Further, the interdependence of TTRs on environmental loading like the wind is also not reported. This paper aims to address these unknowns by expanding on the understanding of TTRs using a high fidelity numerical model of an indirect drive wind turbine with a doubly-fed induction generator (DFIG). To this end, a multibody model of the drivetrain is developed in SIMPACK. The model of the drivetrain is explicitly coupled to state-of-the-art wind turbine simulator Open-FAST, and a grid-connected DFIG developed in MATLAB ® 's Simulink ® allowing a coupled analysis of the electromechanical system. A metric termed slip risk duration is proposed in this paper to quantify the risk associated with the TTRs. The paper first investigates a wide range of IEC design load cases to uncover which load cases can lead to TTRs. It was found that emergency stop and symmetric grid voltage drops can lead to TTRs. Next, the dependence of the TTRs on inflow wind parameters is investigated using a sensitivity analysis. It was found that the instantaneous wind speed at the onset of the grid fault or emergency shutdown was the most influential factor in the slip risk duration. The investigation enables the designer to predict the occurrence of TTRs and quantify the associated risk of damage. The paper concludes with recommendations for utility-scale wind turbines and directions for future research.