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GE Renewable Energy and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult strengthen research collaboration

Published 24 November 2021

New research projects bring in leading universities to advance next-generation offshore wind technologies

GE Renewable Energy and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult have agreed a £375k Academic Research Framework that will enable ground-breaking research, in collaboration with the Universities of Sheffield and Warwick, into reducing costs and improving the reliability of offshore wind projects, as well as reducing the health and safety risk to technicians in the field.

Since 2013, ORE Catapult has completed 28 PhD projects across all of its research focus areas, with 21 currently active and nine specifically related to its existing Powertrain Research Hub. The new research projects carried out as part of this agreement will align closely with current areas of study and will focus on:

  • Reliability by design, primarily focused on validation of key wind turbine components. This includes reliability improvement and advanced test methodologies.
  • Enabling full remote operability and troubleshooting of the turbines through advanced digital functionality, to reduce the need to go offshore for unplanned events. This includes advanced health condition monitoring and prognostic technologies and the development of next-generation powertrain components for larger turbines.
  • Development of next generation powertrain components for larger wind turbines.

The first project as part of the agreement will be a sponsored PhD in partnership with the University of Sheffield, due to begin in January 2022, to investigate the issue of grease lubrication in wind turbine bearings. The project aims to better understand the mechanisms of lubrication, damage, false brinelling, and fretting wear in a wind turbine pitch bearing. From there, it will identify a test and analysis method to reproduce failure effects, and evaluate potential candidate greases and/or contact operating regimes that can minimise pitch bearing wear and tear.

Overall, the research project aims to find  a sustainable alternative to current grease formulation used in pitch bearings and extend the life of this critical component of an offshore wind turbine. The project will benefit from previous research carried out by the Powertrain Research Hub.

Anthony Gordon, ‘Stay Ashore’ program manager at GE Renewable Energy said:

“We are delighted to start this new step in our ‘Stay Ashore’ collaboration with ORE Catapult and to work with the Universities of Sheffield and Warwick. We have chosen to invest in this project as it can have tremendous value for our offshore wind technology and the lifecycle of the bearings inside our turbines. We are looking forward to kicking off the project.”

Graham Smith, R&D Programmes Manager for ORE Catapult, said:

“We are proud of the strong partnership we have built with GE Renewable Energy, directly supporting the rapid delivery of their ground-breaking Haliade-X turbine and our world-leading research within the ‘Stay Ashore’ programme. Our collaboration with GE and world leading Universities provides a platform for us to amplify and see UK research applied to global projects.

“Our new Academic Research Framework will further enhance the world-leading UK research, development and technology innovation we are bringing to the forefront of global offshore wind development and help support the expansion of capacity needed drive forward global decarbonisation.”

Prof Rob Dwyer-Joyce of the University of Sheffield commented:

“We are extremely pleased to be part of this joint venture. Working with ORE Catapult has given us new opportunities to apply our expertise in tribology and machine elements to the wind energy sector. The way a grease functions to lubricate a bearing has many fascinating aspects, and this project with ORE Catapult and GE gives us a chance to apply our experimental and analytical methods in this exciting area.”