The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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UMass College of Engineering Offers New Online Course in Simulating Wind Turbines with State-of-the-art Software

floating wind turbines

For the spring semester of 2019, the College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is offering a brand new online course that uses a traditional open-source wind-turbine modeling software called OpenFAST, developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to simulate turbines and their dynamics quite accurately. The online course is ongoing and will be offered at least once per year.

In this online course – MIE-CEE 597WT Simulating Wind Turbines Using FAST – students will learn how the OpenFAST framework is organized, how to manipulate the individual modules in OpenFAST to suit their simulation needs, and how to debug and post-process simulation results to get the most out of the software.

The online course is being taught by three leading experts in the wind-energy field.

Dr. Spencer Hallowell has researched offshore wind-energy engineering at Northeastern University and UMass Amherst after studying civil engineering at Bucknell University. He is the author of numerous papers on offshore wind energy and is an expert OpenFAST user. He is now in private consulting in his home state of Maine.

Matthew Lackner is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UMass Amherst and is associate director of the UMass Amherst Wind Energy Center. He was educated at Princeton, MIT, and UMass Amherst and was a postdoctoral scholar at Delft University of Technology. He is the author of many publications in wind energy and has performed research funded by NSF, DOE, corporate sponsors, BOEM/BSEE, and MassCEC.

Sanjay Arwade is a professor of civil engineering at UMass Amherst and is a member of the faculty of the UMass Amherst Wind Energy Center. He studied at Princeton and Cornell and has conducted research in offshore wind energy for more than 10 years while at UMass Amherst.  He has published extensively in wind energy and has been funded by NSF, BOEM/BSEE, and MassCEC.

This teaching team will guide online students through nine extremely timely and relevant research units. For example, one unit will examine some wind conditions that could be detrimental to wind-turbine operation and how the design and operation of wind turbines mitigate the detrimental effects of these wind conditions. Students will run OpenFAST simulations for an onshore turbine over a range of wind speeds. They will also construct a power curve for power production versus wind speed and will determine how turbulence affects the average power output of a turbine.

Another unit will discuss some ways we can determine the relative magnitude of wind loading versus wave loading on an offshore wind turbine and why we don’t put wind turbines close to shore to avoid large wave loads. The students will run OpenFAST simulations for an offshore turbine over a range of wave parameters, determine the sensitivity of tower-top motions to incoming waves, and conceptualize how tower-top motions can be minimized in wavy environments. 

The unit on floating structures will investigate why floating offshore wind turbines are so much more expensive than fixed-bottom wind turbines and some of the advantages of floating offshore wind turbines when compared to fixed-based alternatives. Students will then run OpenFAST simulations for a semisubmersible platform and determine the sensitivity to the mooring line tensions at the fairlead of the wind turbine relative to the mooring module, and they will also establish the mooring-chain weight and geometry.

Nine of these units will lead ultimately to the final project: “You have been approached by an offshore-wind development company for consulting work due to your newly gained expertise in modeling wind turbines in OpenFAST. The company is trying to develop a new turbine system that is intended to be installed in moderately deep water in the harsh offshore environment of the North Atlantic. You are tasked with developing a fixed-bottom monopile design for a 10-megawatt wind turbine exposed to hurricane loading. You will apply your knowledge about all of the OpenFAST modules to prove to the client that the monopile dimensions that you choose are suitable for their prototype turbine.”

If wind energy is your passion and this innovative new course sounds like a promising next step in your engineering career, you can look into enrolling in this online course. (February 2019)