ORE Catapult’s 15MW drive train test facility

University of Sheffield, GE Renewable Energy and Catapult collaborate in new £2.5m Powertrain Research Hub

Published 11 April 2019

The University of Sheffield has been named as the academic partner in the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s newest Research Hub, focusing on offshore wind turbine powertrains.

The University is world-renowned for its expertise in the fields of electrical machines, power electronics, controls and energy conversion and storage and will contribute a minimum of £1.7m over five years.  This complements the £700k funding from the Catapult with the collective contributions supporting 12 PhDs, a number of Postdoctoral Research Associates and access to the University’s extensive testing facilities in addition to ORE Catapult’s 1, 3 and 15 MW test assets at its National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth.

GE Renewable Energy will also contribute £500,000 over a four-year programme supporting a number of research projects.  This allows the university to significantly increase its contributions.

The Powertrain Research Hub (PTRH) will support the development of future technologies for larger turbines and research solutions for improving turbine reliability and availability. The Hub’s key objectives are:

  • Reliability improvement and advanced test methodologies.
  • Advanced health condition monitoring and prognostic technologies.
  • Development of next generation powertrain components for larger sized wind turbines.

Research will focus on minimising human interventions throughout the life of the wind turbine, an area of research that has attracted the support of GE Renewable Energy as it is a good fit with its recently announced ‘Stay Ashore!’ research collaboration with the Catapult, aimed at minimising the time people have to spend offshore.

The Catapult already has a strong track record in powertrain testing, research and development and recently signed a five-year collaboration agreement with GE Renewable Energy to advance next generation turbine technologies, including the Haliade-X 12 MW, the most powerful wind turbine in the world to date.

Paul McKeever, ORE Catapult’s Head of Strategic Research, said:

“With industry moving towards larger wind turbines, we have an opportunity to significantly contribute to reducing the cost of turbine technology. It is essential to maximise this opportunity in a number of key areas including the challenge of improving powertrain component reliability and availability.

“By developing the next generation of powertrain components, and improving their lifespan, we can significantly reduce the related operations and maintenance costs and subsequently minimise the number of human interventions for potentially dangerous turbine repair work at sea.”

Scientific Director Professor David Stone from the University of Sheffield said:

“The University of Sheffield sees working with ORE Catapult as a fantastic opportunity to apply its cutting-edge research ideas to support the rapidly expanding field of green energy generation solutions. The synergies brought about by the Powertrain Research Hub will not only bring benefits for the University and the offshore wind industrial sector, but consumers as a whole through higher reliability, lower cost electricity generation.”

Vincent Schellings, CTO and General Manager Product Management for GE’s Renewable Energy Offshore Wind business added:

“The goals of the Powertrain Research Hub are aligned with our Stay Ashore! program announced at the end of last year. This academic collaboration will give us access to different insights, that will ultimately help us to achieve our goal of minimising the time spent at sea, which is a key element of reducing the cost of electricity for our customers.”

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