Predictive maintenance will allow wind farm operators to maximize gains from the latestbearings research and extend gearbox lifespans in the coming years, industry experts said.

Ultra-large bearings for wind turbines are tested in operating conditions similar to those found in large multi-megawatt wind turbines at the Wind Turbine Technology and Test Center, opened by Timken and Stark State College in North Canton (Ohio) in 2013.

Improvements in design, manufacturing and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) technologies have reduced gearbox downtimes for onshore windfarms from around 1.4 hours per turbine per year in 2007 to 0.3 hours/turbine/year in the last two to three years, according to research by the U.S.’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).