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    Patent Issued for Main shaft assembly of a wind turbine (USPTO 11441541)


    October 4, 2022 - Energy Business Daily

     

      2022 OCT 04 (NewsRx) -- By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Energy Business Daily -- From Alexandria, Virginia, NewsRx journalists report that a patent by the inventors Bellucci, Matteo (Schenectady, NY, US), Garry, Michael A. (Asheville, NC, US), Leal Rodriguez, Roberto (Queretaro, MX), Slack, Robert Peter (Seattle, WA, US), filed on August 24, 2020, was published online on September 13, 2022.

      The patent’s assignee for patent number 11441541 is General Electric Renovables Espana S.L. (Barcelona, Spain).

      News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: “Wind power is considered one of the cleanest, most environmentally friendly energy sources presently available, and wind turbines have gained increased attention in this regard. A modern wind turbine typically includes a tower, a generator, a gearbox, a nacelle, and one or more rotor blades. The nacelle includes a rotor assembly coupled to the gearbox and to the generator. The rotor assembly and the gearbox are mounted on a bedplate support frame located within the nacelle. The one or more rotor blades capture kinetic energy of wind using known airfoil principles. The rotor blades transmit the kinetic energy in the form of rotational energy so as to turn a rotor shaft coupling the rotor blades to a gearbox, or if a gearbox is not used, directly to the generator. The generator then converts the mechanical energy to electrical energy and the electrical energy may be transmitted to a converter and/or a transformer housed within the tower and subsequently deployed to a utility grid. Modern wind power generation systems typically take the form of a wind farm having multiple such wind turbine generators that are operable to supply power to a transmission system providing power to an electrical grid.

      “The loads generated by the wind turbine in response to the wind typically are carried by various structural bodies of the wind turbine. For example, at least a portion the load generated by the rotor may be transmitted to the gearbox via the rotor shaft (also referred to as the main shaft). These loads may result in a bending of the shaft. Known control systems utilize bending moment measurements in order to manage the wind turbine’s response to the wind.

      “Typically, measuring the deflection of the shaft may involve securing a sensor to an additional component of the wind turbine and directing the sensor toward the shaft to be measured. For example, a known approach is to secure a plurality of sensors to a main bearing housing in order to detect a deflection of the main shaft flange relative to the main bearing housing. However, as the main bearing typically supports the shaft, loads sufficient to generate the bending moment may also result in a movement of the main bearing housing. This movement may reduce the fidelity of the deflection measurements. Additionally, the rotor shaft is typically in motion. Therefore, using known approaches, the sensors are generally directed at a moving surface, which may further reduce the accuracy of the system. Furthermore, the component supporting the sensors and the component to be measured may be formed from different materials and may, therefore, exhibit different degrees of movement in response to the load. Accordingly, it may be desirable to utilize a structural assembly which permits a more accurate detection of displacement of the main shaft than is presently available using known systems.

      “Thus, the art is continuously seeking new and improved systems and methods that address the aforementioned issues. As such, the present disclosure is directed to an improved main shaft assembly of a wind turbine and methods of manufacturing the same.”

      As a supplement to the background information on this patent, NewsRx correspondents also obtained the inventors’ summary information for this patent: “Reference now will be made in detail to embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the drawings. Each example is provided by way of explanation of the invention, not limitation of the invention. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made in the present invention without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used with another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment. Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers such modifications and variations as come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.

      “As used herein, the terms “first”, “second”, and “third” may be used interchangeably to distinguish one component from another and are not intended to signify location or importance of the individual components.

      “The terms “coupled,” “fixed,” “attached to,” and the like refer to both direct coupling, fixing, or attaching, as well as indirect coupling, fixing, or attaching through one or more intermediate components or features, unless otherwise specified herein.

      “Approximating language, as used herein throughout the specification and claims, is applied to modify any quantitative representation that could permissibly vary without resulting in a change in the basic function to which it is related. Accordingly, a value modified by a term or terms, such as “about”, “approximately”, and “substantially”, are not to be limited to the precise value specified. In at least some instances, the approximating language may correspond to the precision of an instrument for measuring the value, or the precision of the methods or machines for constructing or manufacturing the components and/or systems. For example, the approximating language may refer to being within a 10 percent margin.

      “Here and throughout the specification and claims, range limitations are combined and interchanged, such ranges are identified and include all the sub-ranges contained therein unless context or language indicates otherwise. For example, all ranges disclosed herein are inclusive of the endpoints, and the endpoints are independently combinable with each other.”

      The claims supplied by the inventors are:

      “1. A shaft assembly of a wind turbine, the shaft assembly comprising: a shaft body defining a cavity therein and a load path for transmitting a load generated by the wind turbine in response to wind; an inner body disposed within the cavity and coupled to the shaft body, the inner body being non loadbearing with respect to the load, wherein the shaft body and the inner body are concentric and have a synchronized rate of rotation about an axis; and at least one sensor coupled to the inner body at a first axial location along the axis and positioned within the cavity for detecting a deflection of the shaft body in response to the load, wherein the inner body is coupled to the shaft body at a second axial location within the cavity, the inner body forming a cantilever extending at least axially between the second axial location and the at least one sensor.

      “2. The shaft assembly of claim 1, wherein the coupling of the at least one sensor to the inner body defines a physical separation between the at least one sensor and an adjacent wall of the cavity in a radial direction.

      “3. The shaft assembly of claim 2, wherein the at least one sensor comprises a proximity sensor, the proximity sensor being configured to indicate a radial deflection of the shaft body.

      “4. The shaft assembly of claim 1, wherein the at least one sensor comprises an array of sensors disposed at the first axial location of the axis, the array of sensors circumscribing the inner body, each sensor of the array of sensors defining a circumferential separation with at least one adjacent sensor of the array of sensors.

      “5. The shaft assembly of claim 1, wherein the shaft body and the inner body are a unitary body having an absence of a joint therebetween.

      “6. The shaft assembly of claim 1, wherein the inner body is coupled within the cavity after formation, the shaft body comprising a first material, and the inner body comprising a second material which is different than the first material.

      “7. A component assembly of a wind turbine, the assembly comprising: a wind turbine component comprising: an outer body defining a cavity therein, the outer body defining a load path for transmitting a load of the wind turbine therethrough, and an inner body disposed within the cavity of the outer body, the inner body being non loadbearing with respect to the load; and at least one sensor coupled to the inner body at a first axial location along the axis and positioned within the cavity for detecting a deflection of the outer body in response to the load, wherein the inner body is coupled to the shaft body at a second axial location within the cavity, the inner body forming a cantilever extending at least axially between the second axial location and the at least one sensor.

      “8. The component assembly of claim 7, wherein the outer body and the inner body are rotatable during operation of the wind turbine, and wherein the outer body and the inner body are concentric and have a synchronized rate of rotation about an axis.

      “9. The component assembly of claim 7, wherein the coupling of the at least one sensor to the inner body defines a physical separation between the at least one sensor and an adjacent wall of the cavity.

      “10. The component assembly of claim 7, wherein the at least one sensor comprises an array of sensors disposed at the first axial location along an axis of the outer body, each sensor of the array of sensors defining an angular separation with at least one adjacent sensor of the array of sensors relative to the axis.

      “11. The component assembly of claim 7, wherein the at least one sensor is at least one first sensor, the assembly further comprising: at least one second sensor coupled to the inner body at a third axial location, the second axial location being disposed between the first axial location and the third axial location.

      “12. The component assembly of claim 7, wherein the wind turbine component is one of a rotor blade, a high speed shaft, a low speed shaft, a rotatable hub, a rotor support spindle, or a tower of the wind turbine.

      “13. A method for manufacturing a shaft assembly of a wind turbine, the method comprising: forming a shaft body defining a cavity extending in a radial direction and a load path for transmitting a load generated by the wind turbine in response to a wind; disposing an inner body within the cavity in axial and rotational alignment with an axis of the shaft body, the inner body being non loadbearing with respect to the load; and coupling at least one sensor to the inner body at a first axial location along the axis within the cavity, the at least one sensor being configured to detect a radial deflection of the shaft body in response to the load, coupling the inner body to the shaft body at a second axial location within the cavity so as to form a cantilever extending at least axially between the second axial location and the at least one sensor, wherein the at least one sensor has a first sensitivity at a first cantilever axial length and a second sensitivity corresponding to a second cantilever axial length, the second cantilever axial length being greater than the first cantilever axial length and the second sensitivity may be greater than the first sensitivity.

      “14. The method of claim 13, wherein disposing the inner body within the cavity comprises at least one of casting or additively manufacturing the inner body as a unitary body with the shaft body, the inner body and the shaft body having an absence of a joint therebetween.

      “15. The method of claim 13, wherein the shaft body comprises a first material, and wherein disposing the inner body within the cavity further comprises: forming the inner body from a second material different than the first material; inserting the inner body into the cavity; and coupling the inner body to an inside face of the shaft body.

      “16. The method of claim 13, wherein coupling at least one sensor to the inner body comprises: circumscribing the inner body at the first axial location with an array of sensors, wherein the array of sensors is distributed equidistantly about a circumference of the inner body.

      “17. The method of claim 13, further comprising: coupling a sealing member across an opening in the shaft body defined by the cavity.”

      For additional information on this patent, see: Bellucci, Matteo. Main shaft assembly of a wind turbine. U.S. Patent Number 11441541, filed August 24, 2020, and published online on September 13, 2022. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=11441541.PN.&OS=PN/11441541RS=PN/11441541

      (Our reports deliver fact-based news of research and discoveries from around the world.)

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