Progress on Optimizing Wind Farms and Rotor Designs Using Adjoints

Research output: NRELPresentation


Modern wind plants are increasingly tasked with multiple performance objectives. In addition to designing plants that maximize power output and minimize the levelized cost of energy (LCOE), the design and operation of wind plants is increasingly influenced by challenges regarding grid integration of variable generation renewables. This places a growing emphasis on making wind plants more controllable and predictable. WindSE is a Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) model designed around analytical gradient and adjoint methods, with the ability to capture terrain-induced effects, as shown in Figure 1. The recent addition of an unsteady solver with an actuator line method (ALM) and ongoing work to enable massively parallel optimizations gives it a unique niche to explore coupled plant-level controls and design problems. This code is an open source python package built on the FEniCS framework that utilizes fast, parallel PETSc solvers to model fluid flow throughout wind-farm scale domains. Two recent studies performed using WindSE demonstrate the capability to optimize under a wide variety of flow conditions and objective functions. In the first, we present an optimization focused on modifying the layout of a wind farm with a fixed number of turbines for maximum total power output [1]. This study highlights the ability to quickly perform simulations using the steady Navier-Stokes solver combined with rotors represented as actuator disks while also stressing the importance of capturing terrain-induced effects. Gradient-based optimization using the RANS equations is viable due to the inclusion of efficiently computed adjoint derivatives. We interpret the physical results of the optimal layout and also discuss the computational cost of scaling to larger problems. In the second study, we present the capabilities of the unsteady Navier-Stokes solver, where rotor-blade profiles represented by actuator lines are optimized to enhance wake steering effects and overall power production [2]. We quantify the wind plant performance gains obtained from this type of simultaneous control co-design optimization as compared to optimizing the blade design and yaw independently. Figure 2 shows the differences between a baseline two-turbine system and an optimized system where we fine-tune the blade chord profile. Results and challenges from each study are quickly summarized and used to motivate the current development efforts within WindSE. Current and future work is focused on enabling higher-resolution studies with more degrees of freedom through parallelization of both the simulation and optimization algorithms. We present benchmarking results to show that WindSE performs well in both weak- and strong-scaling tests and further demonstrate that the optimizer obtains the same convergence rates in both shared- and distributed-memory environments. Using larger wind farms, we can study deep-array effects within an optimization context, allowing the use of objective functions that have been previously unstudied. As an example, we present ongoing work on a blockage metric which characterizes the loss of available kinetic energy due to wake effects from multiple upstream turbines.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the Wind Energy Science Conference, 25-28 May 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2C00-80929


  • adjoint optimization
  • blade design
  • complex terrain
  • layout optimization
  • wake steering
  • wind plant controls


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