ZF will supply wind turbine gear boxes to Denmark-based global market leader Vestas
Gear boxes will be manufactured at a new U.S. facility cur-rently under construction
ZF will add manufacturing test stands for the wind gear box industry to its test bench capabilities
ZF will expand service operations to cover facility mainte-nance
Friedrichshafen, Germany – ZF has signed a contract with global wind energy market leader Vestas to supply wind turbine gear boxes. Production is scheduled to begin in early 2012 at a new U.S. facility under construction in Gainesville, Ga., with the goal of eventually producing 2,000 gear boxes per year for the growing wind power industry.
In addition, ZF will add manufacturing test stands for the wind gear box industry to its substantial experience in providing engineered end-of-line and development test benches.
ZF has been providing service for the wind power industry since 2007, and is currently investing in service centers for wind turbines in Dortmund, Germany and in the United States.
“We will leverage our expertise and leadership in designing and building world-class drivelines for the transportation sector to enter the growing and exciting field of alternative energy. This will diver-sify our core business and expand our product portfolio,” said ZF Group CEO Hans-Georg Härter.
ZF aims to achieve annual gear box sales of more than $200 million.
With more than 40,000 turbines in 63 countries, Vestas is the world leader in wind power. The Danish company has been in the wind turbine business since 1979.
ZF is investing about $90 million to build the new Gainesville facil-ity, which will employ about 200 workers.
“Sustainable, environmentally friendly energy is on the rise in light of concern about global warming and the need to reduce CO2 emis-sions and produce carbon-neutral energy, said Rolf Lutz, head of ZF’s Commercial Vehicle and Special Driveline Technology Division.
“We are delighted that ZF has chosen to enter the Wind Industry and work with Vestas as gear box supplier. ZF’s global position as transmission supplier in the automotive industry and it’s high qual-ity and productivity standards are fully in line with our manufactur-ing and sourcing strategy and the cooperation with ZF will strengthen our supply base of gear boxes,” says Søren Husted, President of Vestas Nacelles.
“We’ve been applying our driveline technologies to areas beyond cars and trucks for several years – such as to the marine, rail and aviation industries. Now that we have added wind power, we will gain access to new markets,” said Härter.
Maintenance and testing services
Last year at its Dortmund/Holzwickede site in Germany, ZF in-vested $9 million Euros establishing a service competence center for wind power. By 2012, various brands and models of wind tur-bine gear boxes will be serviced and overhauled there. By 2014, ZF Services aims for its worldwide wind energy sales to rise to $50 million Euros.
Also, ZF is constructing a loading test rig with a four-megawatt per-formance capacity. Serviced gear boxes will be driven under simu-lated load conditions to measure both structural and airborne noise levels. ZF Services is the industry’s only independent, multi-brand services provider with such a test rig.
ZF is establishing additional wind power service centers in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and North America. It also plans to enter the steadily growing wind power markets of China and India.
ZF high performance gear boxes convert torque of more than 1 million Newton meters
Gear boxes in wind turbines convert the low-frequency revolutions of the rotor blades – which rotate only between 12 and 20 times per minute – into 1,500 to 2,000 revolutions per minute, so that con-nected generators are able to generate electricity. Wind turbine gear boxes must be able to withstand torque levels that sometimes even exceed 1 million Newton meters. They must therefore be specially developed. Because of their at-altitude application and the some-times humid, salty air that they encounter, wind turbine gear boxes must also be especially robust and durable.