Lead Supervisor: Marco Placidi, Mechanical Engineering Sciences/EnFlo, University of Surrey

Email: m.placidi@surrey.ac.uk

Co-supervisor: Majid Bastankhah, Durham University

The combined crises of global climate change and the recently-exposed weakness of supply chains have brought into sharp focus the importance of available renewable resources. Offshore wind power in particular is being considered with renewed urgency in the UK, given the substantial government investment to increase its installed capacity. In the UK alone, every extra GWh of energy produced by wind, prevents the emission of 450 tonnes of carbon yearly.

This doctoral project in Aerodynamics and Environmental Flow will help develop the next generation of wind farm technologies by improving our understanding of how the Earth’s atmosphere, the wakes of wind turbines in a wind farm and the wind turbines  themselves all interact; the results will be used to inform the placement and arrangement of wind farms, as well as the design of the machines themselves, their structures and control strategies.

In order to minimize the cost of installation, it is desirable for wind turbines to be located as close together as possible. However, this means that in a wind farm, turbines will not be driven by the undisturbed wind- but rather by the wake of the turbine in front of it. This causes complex, unsteady loads which cause fatigue stress on the turbines and reduce their life-cycle.

This experimental project will make use of the unique EnFlo wind tunnel (see https://www.nwtf.ac.uk/facility/environmental-flow-enflo/), which is part of the National Atmospheric and Measurement Observation Facility and one of only five worldwide which can simulate the turbulence and temperature characteristics of the Earth’s atmospheric boundary layer. The wind tunnel will be fitted with a model array of working wind turbines to simulate a wind farm (either onshore or offshore). The performance of the model wind farm will be measured in a range of different upstream flow conditions which can occur: the behaviour of the system can change significantly with variations in velocity, turbulence and temperature gradients. Measurements of velocity within the wind farm will enable the performance to be linked back to the flow physics, which will in turn enable the improvement of wind turbine and wind farm design guidelines.

Training Opportunities

Specialised MSc modules on various aspects of atmospheric fluid mechanics are available at both the Universities of Surrey and Reading. The student will also be encouraged to take part in the Summer School in “Fluid Dynamics of Sustainability and the Environment” offered by the University of Cambridge (UK) and “Introduction to Measurement Techniques” Lecture Series at VKI (Belgium).

Student Profile

We are seeking candidates with a first-class degree or a good 2:1 in a relevant engineering field (aeronautics, environmental, civil, mechanical) or physical/environmental science (physics, meteorology), with excellent communications skills. Previous experience with experimental work would be beneficial.