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What are hydropower bearings used for?

GGB has been providing knowledge and solutions to the hydropower industry for more than 100 years. 

Over the past 20 years, fiber reinforced composite bearings have proven themselves to be the successor to greased bronze bearings in hydropower applications. GGB’s HPMB®, HPM, and HPF® fiber reinforced composite self-lubricating bearings have been specifically designed to meet the demands for low wear, high performance bearings in the hydropower industry.

GGB’s expert team of application engineers works closely with hydropower industry customers to determine the right solutions for their hydropower applications. In one instance, GGB was approached by Dongfang Electric early in the design process of their pump storage facility located in JiXi, Anhui province, China. The facility required a tight tolerance hydropower bearing with a machinable liner that could provide dimensional flexibility to adjust for a yet to be determined offset.

An extensive machining study was performed to investigate which fiber matrix would provide the best machining response without compromising on tribological performance. Ultimately, it was determined that HPMB® high precision fiber reinforced composite bearings were ideal for this application due to their machinable inner and outer diameters, dimensional flexibility, and their excellent corrosion resistance. Additionally, HPMB® bearings exhibit excellent dimensional stability due to their negligible water adsorption, further contributing to its tight dimensional control.


HPMB® self-lubricating composite bearings have been widely adopted by the hydropower industry since their approval by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for use in hydropower turbine wicket gates in 2015. For applications that do not require the tight tolerance control that post-installation machining of HPMB® provides, GGB offers other Fiber Reinforced Composite Products such as HPM and HPF®.

HPM Hydro Bearings and HPF® filament wound segments are used in the turbine wicket gates, as well as the servomotors and linkages, of the four turbines in China’s Xiangjiaba Hydropower Plant. At the time its first generator was commissioned in 2012, the 800 MW turbines used by the plant were the most powerful in the world. The wicket gates in these turbines are responsible for controlling the flow of water that enters the turbine, ultimately impacting the power output of the turbine.

Given this vital role, the wicket gates required high performance bearings with both a high load capacity and a low coefficient of friction. HPM and HPF® Hydropower Bearings were ideal for this application, featuring a maximum dynamic load capacity of 20,000 psi/140 MPa and low coefficients of friction even under high pressures. Practically, these properties result in less force being required to adjust the position of the wicket gates during operation. This contributes to reduced wear, allowing for reliable operation to continue for more than 20 years.



GGB self-lubricating bronze bearings are also used in the hydropower industry. One example is GGB-DB® cast bronze pintle bearings that are used in the miter gates of the Panama Canal’s lock system. These gates are responsible for the water elevation change in the canal, allowing for the passage of ships. The USACE requires the miter bearings to have a 25 year service life, abrasion resistance, underwater operability, and ease of assembly and operation – all of which are criteria met by GGB-DB® high performance bearings. Unlike traditional greased bronze bearings, GGB-DB® bearings are self-lubricating with solid lubricant inserts. These inserts provide continuous lubrication across the entirety of the sliding surface. Additionally, these zero pollution bearings eliminate the possibility of water contamination by removing the need for toxic lubrication.

GGB hydropower bearings have proven their superior performance in hydropower plants across the globe from the Americas to Asia. Additionally, GGB’s worldwide team of experienced sales and application engineers are available to provide technical support to determine the right hydropower bearing solution for your application, regardless of where you are located.

Learn more about GGB hydro bearings solutions designed for the energy market.

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