Developing a digital twin for offshore wind turbines

Research proposals

  • Research area

    Operations and remote autonomous monitoring

  • Institution

    University of Sheffield

  • Research project

    Developing a digital twin for offshore wind turbines

  • Lead supervisor

    Professor David Wagg (Professor of Nonlinear Dynamics, University of Sheffield)

  • Supervisory Team

    Professor David Wagg (Professor of Nonlinear Dynamics, University of Sheffield)
    Dr Nikolaos Dervilis (Senior Lecturer – Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Sheffield)

Project Description:

There is an urgent need to grow the offshore wind contribution to UK power supply, as global targets on reducing emissions mean that the UK is committed to increasingly relying on renewable and nuclear energy to provide power. However, the levelised cost of offshore wind power remains high [1], particularly maintenance & operational costs in addition to which design life estimates of wind farm ageing are difficult to calculate [2].  As a result, there is clearly a pressing need to improve design life estimates and operational life management in the offshore wind sector. In this PhD the concept of a virtualised digital twin will be developed.

A digital twin is a fusion of models and data, with the twin relationship holding throughout the entire structural life cycle, from design, through operation, to end of life. The digital twin must be so representative of its physical counterpart that it can serve as a proxy for important design/operation decisions. This can only be achieved by fusing together physics-based models with an uncertainty analysis of the dynamics, test results, measured data and design criteria to provide a step change in design/operation confidence. The idea of creating a digital twin to achieve an improved design process is shown in the figure, where in (a) the current situation is shown schematically for a design process without a digital twin. In this scenario, not all the information available, such as different types of model output, recorded data, historical data, user feedback etc., are necessarily used in the design process. If it is used, it may not be fully coordinated in a systematic way that targets the specific design objectives. In the figure (2) we show the idea of a digital twin, where all models and data are linked and synchronized using a workflow. The process of developing this idea for wind energy forms the core thematic research areas of this project.

[1] Crabtree, C. J., Zappalá, D., & Hogg, S. I. (2015). Wind energy: UK experiences and offshore operational challenges. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part A: Journal of Power and Energy, 229(7), 727-746.

[2] Staffell, I., and R.Green. “How does wind farm performance decline with age?.” Renewable energy 66 (2014): 775-786.

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