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FransvanhulleDespite the abundance of space for building wind farm capacity to tap the enormous offshore wind resources, planning and designing the fittest for purpose offshore wind farms and clusters requires powerful software tools. Two recently concluded European projects came up with interesting answers to the challenges of producing such tools.

By Frans Van Hulle, XP Wind, Belgium

Now that the European research consortia EERA-DTOC and ClusterDesign have concluded their work on offshore wind farm design tools, it seems the right moment to draw the attention of WindTech International readers to the outcomes. Both international research consortia worked in parallel – in response to an EU FP7 research topic FP7-ENERGY-2011-1: Development of design tools for offshore wind farm clusters. The consortia combined forces building on the state-of-the art knowledge, technology and software tools. They further developed existing tools, and built couplings between models and common model platforms. They benchmarked and empirically validated the improved methods with help of measured data from met masts, lidars and existing offshore wind farm projects. The focus was on tools tackling issues arising in the planning and the design phase of offshore wind power such as spatial optimisation considering wake effects within wind farms and between wind farms, design of cost-effective configurations for grid connection and ancillary services, and methods for accurate energy yield predictions and simulations to ease investment decisions.

As a result of these two projects, an improved set of tools and models is available for planning and designing offshore wind plants. Two integrated software suites are available enabling the users (planners, developers) to make optimised design choices in an accelerated way: the EERA-DTOC ‘spin-off’ Wind and Economy Strategic Optimisation Software Toolbox and the ClusterDesign Toolbox. A non-exhaustive list of functionalities the user may find includes:

  • A range of validated design models to accurately predict power, energy yield and wind turbine loads carefully taking into account wake effects.
  • A mesoscale wind and stability atlas for the North Sea comprising a 20-year weather research and forecasting (WRF) simulation at 2 km² resolution suited for evaluation of offshore wake models.
  • Description of possibilities and limitations of advanced wind farm control methods (e.g. active wake control) that aim at simultaneously maximising output and minimising fatigue loading.
  • Electrical collection and grid connection models, yielding a distribution of CAPEX and OPEX costs for a given layout considering a range of cabling topographies for and evaluation of virtual power plant (VPP) capabilities.

In conclusion, the author, who has been involved in the coordination of the ClusterDesign project, would like to emphasise that the future massive roll-out of wind power capacity needs to be adequately accompanied with high quality and efficient tools for planning and design. The above-mentioned projects mark a significant first contribution to this objective. It is up to the stakeholders to take things up and provide feedback on experience to the developers of these tools.

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