Researchers Look to Evolution to Determine the Best Placement of Turbines

Evolution is providing the inspiration for University of Adelaide computer science research to find the best placement of turbines to increase wind farm productivity.

Senior Lecturer Dr Frank Neumann, from the School of Computer Science, is using a "selection of the fittest" step-by-step approach called "evolutionary algorithms" to optimise wind turbine placement. This takes into account wake effects, the minimum amount of land needed, wind factors and the complex aerodynamics of wind turbines.

"Renewable energy is playing an increasing role in the supply of energy worldwide and will help mitigate climate change," Neumann said. "To further increase the productivity of wind farms, we need to exploit methods that help to optimise their performance."

Dr Neumann says the question of exactly where wind turbines should be placed to gain maximum efficiency is highly complex. "An evolutionary algorithm is a mathematical process where potential solutions keep being improved a step at a time until the optimum is reached," he said. "You can think of it like parents producing a number of offspring, each with differing characteristics, with evolution, each population or `set of solutions' from a new generation should get better. These solutions can be evaluated in parallel to speed up the computation."

Other biology-inspired algorithms to solve complex problems are based on ant colonies.

"Ant colony optimisation" uses the principle of ants finding the shortest way to a source of food from their nest.

"You can observe them in nature, they do it very efficiently communicating between each other using pheromone trails," Neumann said. "After a certain amount of time, they will have found the best route to the food - problem solved. We can also solve human problems using the same principles through computer algorithms."

Neumann has come to the University of Adelaide this year from Germany, where he worked at the Max Planck Institute. He is working on wind turbine placement optimisation in collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Current approaches to solving this placement optimisation can only deal with a small number of turbines," he said. "We have demonstrated an accurate and efficient algorithm for as many as 1,000 turbines."

The researchers are now looking to fine-tune the algorithms even further using different models of wake effect and complex aerodynamic factors.

Download Center

  • Monitoring and Reporting on Air Emissions for Regulators and the Real World

    When it comes to managing compliance and regulatory issues surrounding air emissions, there are no easy jobs. With interviews from practitioners from American Electric Power, Red Cedar Gathering, Trinity Consultants, and Cority, this eBook provides practical advice to advance your air emissions monitoring and reporting programs.

  • What Every EHS Professional Should Know About ESG

    Join experts from Arcadis and Cority on April 27th to learn the most common ESG reporting frameworks and how technology can help you improve reporting efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and create defensible audit trails.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Read the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get an unbiased comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • RFP Template for Waste Management Software

    Learn the essential questions to ask when evaluating waste management software solutions with this free, ready-to-use RFP template

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

Featured Webinar