Geared up: Innovating to prevent wind turbine gearbox failures

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served our country, and thank you to all the spouses and families who support military veterans. Veterans say the skills gained during military service positions them for success in clean energy careers, reports the Energy News Network. Veterans interested in solar technical training through the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Basic Photovoltaics (PV 101) class will receive a 50% discount through the month of November.

Now, here is today’s Midwest tech news, starting with researchers at Argonne National Laboratory working on a team of public and private partners at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to better understand and develop solutions for axial cracking in wind turbine gearbox components. Axial cracking in the gearbox’s rolling-element bearings is reportedly the most common reason for premature wind turbine failures, leading to unplanned maintenance, downtime, and higher costs at wind power plants. The problem is expected to grow as wind turbines increase in size.

  • Researchers equipped a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine with specialized tools for at-scale data gathering for this analysis. They recognize that a variety of factors likely causes the cracking, and they are trying to figure out which are most important and can be easily corrected.
  • “Our findings confirmed that bearing slip under heavy loads occurs during wind turbine operations as a result of factors such as bearing design, load, speed, lubrication, and temperature,” said Jonathan Keller, a senior engineer at NREL. “Using these data, we developed a roller sliding model that is scalable to different turbine and gearbox platforms and a probability of failure model that fills an industry gap in evaluating component reliability.”
  • The next step is improving accuracy in the failure probability model and identifying methods to minimize axial cracking. The improvements have the potential to increase wind plant productivity and reduce operating and maintenance costs.

Today’s headlines:


  • Newly launched Madison, Wisconsin startup Mobile22 developed a taxi-hailing app that mimics the customer convenience of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft while streamlining taxi company operations, reports Wisconsin Inno. The founder has a goal of combining ride-hailing with zero-emissions vehicles for positive societal impact, and all-electric taxi company Green Cab of Madison is the startup’s first business partner.
  • Columbus, Indiana-based Cummins is releasing more information about what it will do with its U.S. Department of Energy funding for affordable hydrogen technologies. It is partnering with Lisle, Illinois-based Navistar to develop a heavy-duty commercial truck that runs on hydrogen fuel cells. Werner Enterprises, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, will test the prototype vehicle for a year.

♻️ RECYCLING: Texas greentech startup Sortera Alloys plans to open a $4.2 million, 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and hire 100 engineers and technicians at that location, reports NTX Inno. Sortera develops technology that uses artificial intelligence to sort industrial scrap metal for reuse in new products.

📈 INVESTMENT: Minneapolis-based North Sky Capital invested in a California renewable natural gas project that uses anaerobic digestor technology to create pipeline-quality renewable natural gas from organic waste and sludge. The project is located in an opportunity zone, meaning the investment supports environmental justice, sustainability, and climate change mitigation in underserved communities.


  • Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission is offering $7 million in grants for energy-related technology projects that reduce energy consumption, increase clean energy or alternative transportation technologies, or increase energy resilience, reports the Wisconsin State Journal. An informational webinar will take place on Nov. 19.
  • The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is providing $170,000 in grants for installations of up to 22 dual-port electric vehicle Level 2 charging stations in public and workplace locations. Applications are due Feb. 8.

🔌 ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Energy efficiency and renewable energy company Ameresco completed an energy efficiency project for the city of Virginia, Minnesota, that reduces municipal energy consumption by more than 20% and lessens maintenance costs. Ameresco outfitted 12 city buildings with energy-efficient technologies including LED facility and street lights, HVAC upgrades, and building automation system upgrades.


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