12/12/2011

By Nick Lerner, founder, Nick PR Lerner

The Wind Energy Industry brings together skills, technologies and science that have not been previously combined on a single system. Dassault Systèmes PLM technology that is used by thousands of enterprises throughout the world to develop and bring leading products to market has proven an ideal match for the needs of this emerging industry. For example, light weight, very robust, able to deal with severe climate, intricate mechanisms and advanced power handling are common requirements to both the aerospace and wind energy industry allowing an ideal technology and knowledge transfer to the wind energy sector.

Harnessing energy from the wind has been part of man’s technical repertoire for at least 5,500 years since the first sailing boats were launched and its has been used to provide mechanical power for 3,700 years in Babylonian irrigation systems and for 2500 years with blast furnaces that could reach temperatures of 1200 degrees Celsius. The first windmill is dated to the year 50 and by 700 vertical axis shaft driven technology was in use, grinding corn, in what is now Afghanistan. The windmill helped open up the American west pumping water for locomotives and has now become an American icon.

The first modern wind turbines were developed in the 1980’s. Despite the age of the industry wind turbine manufacture and use, represents only a tiny fraction of the energy generation scene. However it is an increasingly important one.

In the Vanguard
The companies leading the field in wind generation are using the most advanced design and production techniques in the their work. Aerodynamicists teamed with geophysicists are working with composites engineers and production specialists to conceive, design build and operate wind turbines that represent some of the most advanced products ever devised, that use an elemental source of power as old as time.

The prize for humanity is that an estimated 70 TW of power could be harnessed from the wind compared to a current total global consumption amounting to 20% of that figure. Arguments over the actual amount that can be harnessed vary and reference to Betz law must be made (this estimates a total yield of under 60%) although figures of 30% have also been offered. Regardless of these figures there is a race to develop ever more efficient wind turbines. One company leading the field in this industry UK-based wind energy company quietrevolution which has deployed Dassault Systèmes PLM solutions to enhance design and manufacture of its wind energy generators.

The Infinite Wind
The use of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) has been a great boon to the wind energy industry. Dale Berry, Director of Technical Marketing of SIMULIA, the leading FEA company spoke about the use his company’s software in this application.

“Questions such as, What’s the ideal configuration of a turbine blade? How can you adapt a land-based wind turbine design to a deep-water installation? Are best answered with the use of FE technology. Engineers generally start with a CAD model – perhaps of an airfoil, or the blade of a wind turbine – and then use Finite Element Analysis software to transform that model into a 3D mesh of geometric units, which are the ‘elements’ in finite element analysis.

“Once an FEA model is set up, any number of static, dynamic, linear or nonlinear events, including contact, collisions, buckling and/or collapse scenarios, and even multiphysics analyses (thermal-structural, fluid structure interaction and/or computational fluid dynamics), can be analyzed. Feedback from the FEA solution (‘virtual testing’) is then used to evaluate and modify the CAD design, repeatedly if necessary, until the desired product functionality and durability are reached.

“The results of FEA are typically verified with real-world tests. However, when used in the correct process, and leveraging historical engineering test data, FEA is capable of reducing design time as well as the expense of extensive physical prototyping. The technology has been accelerated in recent years with the addition to the engineer’s toolbox of process integration and design optimization software, as well as multi-core, high-performance computing.”

Fertile Ground for Development
“The diverse engineering needs of power generation have benefited greatly from advancements in FEA cross-fertilization between. In the case of Dassault Systèmes’ Abaqus unified FEA software from SIMULIA, structural design and soil interaction capabilities, proven through analysis of oil & gas platforms, are now being applied to the development of offshore wind structures.

“The wind power industry is experiencing a boom as government and private sector support continues to grow in this energy field. Taller structures are being designed to take advantage of stronger wind speeds at higher elevations and also to offset greater installation costs in the case of offshore wind farms.

“The design and simulation of wind turbine towers and foundations is second nature for FEA software vendors with extensive experience in the oil and gas offshore industry. All of the necessary material models are available for simulating foundations, such as concrete, the behavior of soils, and soil/structural interactions. Linear dynamics capture vibration (earthquake) effects, while static and dynamic nonlinear analyses simulate complex fluid-structure interactions or failure mechanisms.

Full Blown Support
“Rotor blades are possibly the most visible and critical part of a wind turbine. Composites are a leading blade material; FEA modeling techniques for composites, initially driven by aerospace, are highly applicable when exploring such new materials for strength and durability in challenging weather. The software supports composite pre-processing steps such as definition of layups, distribution of orientations and thickness, and visualization of various plies. For modeling purposes, a wide range of element types (solid shells, continuum shells, and so forth) can be used together with different material and failure models, such as the Virtual Crack Closure Technique (VCCT), which was developed by Boeing and refined by SIMULIA.

“Less visible, but still critical, components of a wind turbine are the bearings; several bearings manufacturers use Abaqus FEA to model and simulate the contact behavior of parts in a bearing quickly and accurately. The software solution takes advantage of built-in stabilization features and advanced contact algorithms. Process automation and optimization tools can be applied to FEA analysis of bearings and other aspects of wind power development to identify optimum design parameters for the most efficient and cost-effective design”.

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