Wind Energy Challenges and Accelerating Adoption with CAE Simulation
According to McKinsey, in 2020, 27% of global primary energy generation came from renewable technologies (wind, solar, tidal and hydro). By 2050 this is expected, and indeed needs, to rise to 73% so that many countries move towards sustainability targets. In order to fulfil these ambitious objectives, wind turbines need to have a considerable installation growth and increased power generation capacity and efficiency – requirements which lead to amplified technical and commercial challenges.
In terms of technical challenges, despite very large wind turbine size and the harsh environment for wind operation, the industry is demanding a minimum lifetime of around 25 years for modern developments, expanding to 35 operational years with the use of life extension strategies. High electricity productivity and acceptable acoustic behaviours are also key for efficient and environmentally friendly installations.
In terms of commercial challenges, whilst wind energy is a great renewable energy source conventional sources still possess a considerable market share. To become more competitive, a focus on developing more robust and efficient products with very good operation and maintenance strategy is essential. In summary, in order to further improve the applicability for wind energy, we need to lower the levelised cost of wind energy and improve their reliability.
By applying technologies like Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) to the rigorous engineering required by the renewables industry, Romax has been helping achieve greater productivity and more sustainable and innovative renewable energy technology development and operations for the last 25 years. Now part of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, we help companies to tackle both commercial and technical challenges in the development of renewable energy solutions, such as the cost of energy production, maintenance, reliability, efficiency and time-to-market. MSC Software, acquired by Hexagon in 2017, also has a long history of simulating various aspects of the design of wind turbines such as blade dynamics, fluid aerodynamics and wind farm placement, aero- and vibro-acoustics, composite material modelling, fatigue crack modelling, and gearbox, generator and power electronics cooling.
Hexagon’s customer success stories illustrate how we simulate, facilitate, and monitor the turbine manufacturing process to ensure the ultimate accuracy for components and also for assemblies.
In the wind turbine development stage, in partnership with Korea Aerospace University, we have lightweighted blades without compromising structural integrity or durability. We have also assisted engineers at CADFEM to develop a more efficient wind turbine through fibre reinforcement in wind turbine rotor blades. Researchers led by the Korea Institute of Energy Research and CEDIC Ltd have done some fascinating fundamental research using our computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools on the plausibility of Building-Integrated Wind Turbines (BIWT) in massive skyscrapers to produce electricity locally and therefore lower carbon footprints.
In order to minimise the cost of wind energy by maximising efficiency and reliability, we have worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the U.S. Department of Energy and delivered innovative drivetrain designs, collaborating to understand gearbox failures and developing improvements in industry design practices, such as the use of journal bearings to lower costs due to their simplicity compared to rolling-element bearings. We have helped ZF Wind Power to reduce the cost of energy through increasing the power density and durability of wind turbine drivetrains, via the adoption of a simulation-led development process to design drivetrains with low risk of transmission noise.
Drawing on experience from 37+ DNV-GL certified wind turbine drivetrains designs, we developed a complete, robust, compact and efficient gearbox design within 6 months for NFAIC, who quickly gained market share as a result. Working with Wafangdian Bearing Group Corporation (ZWZ), we have reviewed pitch bearing design using advanced CAE methods and made performance improvement recommendations in less than 2 months, fully meeting the OEM’s requirements.
Find out more about our wind energy solutions here.
Dr. Xiaobing Hu manages Hexagon’s Applied Solutions group within Hexagon Design & Engineering. He has been leading the team in the design and development of multi-MW (up to 11MW+) wind turbine drivetrains globally since 2007, and has helped customers achieve over 37 DNVGL certifications of the new wind turbine designs. As a Gates Scholar, Xiaobing obtained his PhD degree in Materials Science from University of Cambridge, with previous engineering degrees from Tsinghua University, Beijing.