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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) initiated a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Program and industry members by sponsoring a gearbox testing project workshop at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) in July. NREL says the goal of the workshop was to characterize the nature of gearbox problems and to define a campaign to address the problems jointly under a multi-lateral industry-driven test program with NREL.

According to NREL, despite today's reasonable adherence to accepted design practices, wind turbine gearboxes have yet to achieve their design life goal of 20 years. Because the success of the current generation of wind turbines is critical to DOE and NREL missions, the DOE Wind Program is interested in directing significant resources toward understanding and solving critical gearbox issues. To this end, meeting participants, which included representatives from the wind turbine, gearbox, bearing and lubrication industries, were asked to participate in a joint NREL/industry project by contributing to a fund that would support the testing equipment and services required to conduct a testing program.

NREL will provide the use of its 2.5-MW dynamometer test facility at the NWTC, near Boulder, Colo., and a core team of testing staff to execute the test program to be defined prior to project execution.

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