15 mei 2018

Wind energy made even greener thanks to computational solutions

Over the last 25 years, we have advised on over 2,800 wind turbine foundations in 27 countries. Thanks to advanced design methods, a great deal of money was saved in the realisation of these projects. In the near future, we intend to save a great deal of time as well. In this blog, I’ll be explaining these savings and the future design process for wind turbine foundations!

Advanced design methods
We apply highly-advanced design methods for designing foundations for wind turbines. With the help of the finite element method of modelling (3D FEM), considerable steps towards optimisation have been achieved in recent years. An analysis of the completed projects makes it clear that it is possible to decrease the costs of a foundation by 20% and to reduce CO2 emissions by 40%.

Further optimisation
Further optimisation can be made possible through further automation of the design process. Smart automation offers opportunities, especially with regard to the construction of a wind turbine foundation. By eliminating interfaces from the old model, it’s possible to limit the risk of error. Doing so also increases the speed of the process. This in turn yields time gains, which can be important to clients – for instance, those who wish to submit a competitive and reliable bid in very short order.

Not-so-distant horizon
This extensive automation is not some scenario for the distant future, a mere speck on the horizon. We already have the individual elements in our hands: design sheets for the general design of a foundation, an input script for generating a 3D FEM model, an output script for generating a report and a script for executing a 3D Revit model (for use in 3D reinforcement drawings, for example). By connecting these elements, we can create a design process that can proceed automatically without the need for human intervention. This will not, however, eliminate the demand for human brainpower. 

Structural engineer of the future
Whereas in the past, creating a model to simulate the behaviour of a construction took a great deal of effort, the structural engineer of the future will focus more on evaluating and interpreting the calculation results. Changing a few parameters and calculating how this impacts the structure will become a simple matter. This will enable you to present a maximally worked-out proposal to the client: you can achieve a complete design, including optimisation round, in only a few days’ time. This can prove valuable in the tendering phase as well.

Not easy
This automated method represents a departure from the construction industry’s standard operating practice. In other words, we are taking a risk with this development. We’re not taking the easy road here. Our partners abroad, in particular, require a bit of convincing to see the validity of our designs. Still, we feel the effort is more than worthwhile. This idea will be valuable, first and foremost, to our clients in the wind energy sector, but also in connection with other advisory projects involving many repetitive calculations or a limited timeframe for design. I am convinced that this method is the way forward. Which is why I am happy to explain our design method to partners, in order to demonstrate to them the specific benefits offered by this method. I expect an extensively automated design process to become a reality before 2018 is out. 

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