Research and Innovation Activities in Wind Energy

Small to large, on- and offshore, wind turbines provide sustainable power

Our main activities relate to:

  • Finite Element Modelling (FEM) of blades and blade monitoring
  • Fluid-structure interaction (FSI) blade modelling
  • Design of energy efficient electromechanical drive trains and their condition monitoring
  • Providing ancillary services to the grid with wind turbine parks
  • Scour protection of offshore monopiles
  • Design and monitoring of small wind turbines incl. their integration into the grid
  • Small Wind Turbine Field Lab incl. wind emulator

SBO project OptiWind & SWIFT

OptWind LogoOptiWind, led by OWI-Lab, is a strategic basic research project. SBO projects are research projects of high scientific value but with industrial opportunities in the (near) future (5 to 10 years). Industry representatives (e.g. Belwind, CG, Nexans, DEME, …) are involved through an Industrial Advisory Board. In OptiWind we are looking at large offshore wind turbines (i.e. towards 20MW) together with the OWI-Lab partners. Within OptiWind, UGent is responsible for two work packages: one related to a blade mesher for larege (segmented) blades and one on ancillary services of wind turbine farms.

In the SWIFT project, we were involved w.r.t. the development of smart wind turbines for project developer Wind aan de Stroom.

UGent Blade Mesher tool

Blade Cross SectionWe developed a new methodology and mesher to create a finite-element (FE) meshes of wind turbine blades.  It is able to create a clean mesh, including specific details of the turbine blade, starting from 2D air foil sections or a 3D CAD design.

Next to this we created a tool to predict the behaviour of such a blade in certification tests. The results below shows the prediction of mode 7.

Blade Mode Prediction SM

    Grid coupling and ancillary services

    With respect to the grids we are currently looking at the possibility for offshore wind farms to provide ancillary services (frequency control, voltage control, power quality and black start, …). The most recent blackout in Europe (Italy, Switzerland) was in 2013, as shown in the figure below. The challenge is to restore grid power given the absence of electricity on the grid (a so-called black start). We are studying how offshore wind turbine farms using the free power of wind can assist in this.

    As such we were a partner in the SWIFT project leading to the smart coupling of wind turbines in the port area of Antwerp, website EANDIS (Dutch) and website with real-time power (Dutch).

    Design of electrical generators

    Upon request of a major steel manufacturer, we looked into the impact of two different magnetic steel grades on the performance of a wind turbine generator. For each of the materials, we designed a turbine generator for a 1MW turbine using state-of-the-art techniques and compared the performance. From this study, we have learned that for the same mass the more expensive magnetic material causes a 1% increase in efficiency. This allows us to further evaluate the balance between CAPEX en energy yield.

    Scour protection of offshore wind monopiles

    A scour protection is placed around the foundation of the offshore wind turbine to prevent erosion. A more accurate prediction of the required stone size and gradation to achieve a stable scour protection is investigated using physical model tests in the laboratory wave flume.

    Small & medium wind turbine research

    We provide services to many small wind turbine manufacturers. In the EU framework, we have a running FP7 R4SME project (WINDUR, 2013-2015) focussing on increasing the performance of vertical axis wind turbines integrated in buildings. Several European SMEs (such as Mastergas, FuturEnergy, DVE Tech, Solute) are involved in this project. Our role related to the control of these turbines (maximum power point tracking), i.e. how to extract the maximum amount of energy in turbulent wind conditions, without pitch control and in the absence of wind speed measurements.

    A key element in this research is our Small Wind Turbine Field Lab (SWTFieldLab) located at the GreenBridge Science Park in Ostend. This open multi-disciplinary test&R&D infrastructure is used to look at the impact of the generator current waveforms, noise propagation, blade monitoring and microgrid operation. Finally, we have a test set-up, that can run as a wind emulator, of 150kW for medium sized wind turbines (30 to 6000rpm, <50kNm, <200kVA).