- As a partner of the energy industry, the company promotes the expansion of renewable energy production
- Bearing solutions make wind, solar, and hydropower energy generation more efficient and economical
Part of GNFK StartFurther reducing electricity generation costs remains an enormous challenge in the wind industry. The reliability and durability of the bearings play a key role in making energy generation economical. Every bearing failure leads to a loss in energy generation as well as complex repairs and part replacement, which can be costly and time-consuming.
Larger and larger turbines are being used to make wind energy generation more efficient. Rather than using individual components such as main bearings, shafts, and housing, manufacturers increasingly source preassembled systems from the Schaeffler Group. This leads to reduced weight thanks to better integration of the bearing and housing, and reduces logistical costs, as the logistics chain can be simplified and, e.g. the subsystem can be delivered directly to the installation location.Part of GNFK End
Powerful offshore wind power for China
In 2019, the Schaeffler Group supplied two of the largest main bearings so far for 10 MW offshore wind turbines in China, each measuring up to 3.2 meters in diameter. Just the rotor diameter of the corresponding wind turbines can be around 200 meters. The sheer size and challenging operating conditions call for main bearings with a high load-bearing capacity and operating safety. To increase its capacities and thus accommodate the growing wind market, the company will invest around EUR 100 m in China alone by 2022.
To enable predictive monitoring for variable speed drives in wind turbines, the company offers a compact Industry 4.0 package. It combines different measuring systems into a new condition and torque monitoring system. The system not only identifies and limits peak loads and their frequency, but also allows early detection of incipient damage. Repairs can therefore be planned in advance for windless days.
Offshore applications are also becoming more and more important from a market and technological point of view. In addition to investing in manufacturing capacities for larger bearings, the Schaeffler Group has also further developed a special hardening process referred to as slip-free induction hardening. Since no media or gases other than the ambient atmosphere and water for cooling are used in this hardening process, it offers both technological and environmental benefits, particularly when “green” energy is used to operate the induction coils.
The Schaeffler Group bearing solutions used in solar power plants come in many different forms and increase system performance, e.g. by allowing the solar modules to be turned in different directions.
Schaeffler components are also used in solar thermal plants. Reflectors concentrate the sun’s rays onto an absorber to heat a fluid that generates water vapor by means of a heat exchanger, ultimately powering the turbines and generators. The system can follow the sun’s path with precision. This is where the company’s bearing technologies come into play, e.g. in the world’s largest solar park, Noor in southern Morocco. Robust, high-precision spherical plain bearings enable the adjustable collector mirrors to track the sun with precision and thus increase plant availability there.
Hydropower is one of the most frequently used renewable energy sources in the world. Hydropower plants rank third in total power generation worldwide, and their importance will only increase, e.g. with new dams currently being built in China and Brazil. Even small-scale hydropower plants with up to 10 MW are increasingly being used again – e.g. to supply smaller electricity consumers locally. Depending on the application, the bearings used in hydropower will need to fulfill different conditions and offer special characteristics. With rolling bearings, spherical plain bearings, rod ends, plain bearings, and housing units, the Schaeffler Group can provide just the right bearing solutions.