Wind Turbines

Wind turbine installations have grown significantly in the last decade as a result of the quest for alternative energy sources. For the past 10 years, worldwide total installed capacity has grown at nearly 28 percent annually. The Global Wind Energy Council expects total installed capacity to continue to grow at almost 21 percent annually, leading to over 400 GW by the end of 2014. Wind turbines represent an exciting opportunity for clean power production.

Most wind turbine power production comes from large machines, in the 2 MW to 3 MW range for land-based units. The turbines are huge, with blade lengths approximately 50 meters. As a result of the sheer size, engineering simulation is both important and challenging. Full-scale physical testing is difficult, time consuming and expensive. At the same time, the cost of getting it wrong is prohibitive.

Wind turbine design involves the interaction of a range of physical phenomena and market demands:

  • The aerodynamics comprise changing wind direction and speed, making it necessary for designers to understand the flow at the turbine installation and blade boundary scales as well as effects from the unsteady rotor–tower interaction.
  • Rotors must be light, strong and flexible, which indicates the use of advanced engineered materials.
  • Shaft and gearbox loads are high, yet operators demand dependability and low, predictable maintenance costs.
  • The industry calls for high electric generator efficiency, even for low wind speeds. The electrical control system must safely manage operation of the turbine's overall operating conditions.
  • All mechanical components must be strong to meet reliability and durability targets. At the same time, components must be light weight — as they are usually mounted 100 meters above ground.
  • Nearby communities and governments demand low noise and minimal environmental impact.

Engineering simulation tools from ANSYS provide high-fidelity advanced physics that turbine designers need, whether the application is new machine design or machine rerating. The suite's flexibility means the tools can be applied for operation in interactive mode or in batch mode within the design system of the manufacturer or consultant. The technologies are integrated within a common fluid dynamics and electronics software for which ANSYS is well known.