In the future, wind turbines are to be operated in a more environmentally friendly and economical way – thanks to a digital twin. Scientists at the University of Bremen are now researching this together with eight partners in the new WindIO project.
Conserving material, supporting maintenance, reducing effort, increasing wind yield – initiated by the Bremen coordination office ForWind – Center for Wind Energy Research (Bremen, Hanover, Oldenburg), a research project has been launched at the University of Bremen that is intended to enable the ecologically and economically optimal operation of wind turbines with the help of a digital twin. For this purpose, ForWind members, the Institute for Integrated Product Development (BIK) and the Institute for Electrical Drives, Power Electronics and Devices (IALB), are developing a research wind turbine into a cyber-physical system.
The title of the three-year research project is “Concept and construction of a cyber-physical system for the holistic development of wind turbines” (WindIO). It has a total budget of 3.1 million euros and is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy with just under 2.1 million euros in the 7th energy research program “Innovations for the energy transition”. The project is supported by the project management organization Jülich.
In addition to BIK and IALB as research partners, five companies are involved as development and application partners: CONTACT Software (Bremen), Pumacy Technologies (Berlin), fibretech composites (Bremen), Deutsche WindGuard (Varel) and SWMS Consulting (Oldenburg) as well as associated partners Windrad Engineering (Bad Doberan), energy & meteo systems (Oldenburg) and Deutsche Windtechnik Service (Ostenfeld).
Solution lies in the benefit of “digital twin
If the technical possibilities offered by digitization were better exploited, wind turbines (WTGs) could be operated in a more environmentally friendly and economical manner, the project partners are certain. They rely on the “digital twin” for their research and development. This is the virtual image of a real, i.e. physical, system such as a wind turbine. In the WindIO project, the digital twin will represent the dynamic model of the research wind turbine type “Krogmann 15-50” of the IALB in Bremerhaven. A second research wind turbine at the University of Bremen is also being used for WindIO research, a 3.4-megawatt turbine operated by project partner Deutsche WindGuard.
Prediction of operating behavior and service life
In order to be able to digitally map the real conditions in real time, operating data must be permanently recorded and fed into the digital twin. Numerous sensor data are required for this. If the mechanical and electrical components are connected to an information-processing system via a communication network, the plant is referred to as a cyberphysical system (CPS). The Digital Twin is a special application of a CPS. It provides support for testing and forecasting – from manufacturing and logistics to WTG operation and final WTG recycling. Linking with weather and load forecasts, for example, allows prediction of operating behavior and service life. The behavior of plants or their individual components in real operation can thus be better predicted.
Test with Bremen 3.4-megawatt research wind turbine
The software architecture developed on the basis of the Krogmann WTG is to be used in parallel for a digital twin of the second research WTG. In this way, findings on the industrial transferability of the methodology to larger plants can be collected and statements made about the broad-scale effectiveness of the methodology.
“So far, digital twins have not been widely used in wind energy technology. One reason for this is mostly restrictive information management in the wind industry. This delays the development of higher-level operating and optimization strategies, and the potential of digitization cannot be fully exploited,” says Dr.-Ing. Christian Zorn, head of the ForWind coordination office at the University of Bremen. One project goal is therefore particularly close to his heart: “With the WindIO twin, we want to establish a database that enables the exchange of plant-specific information for different user groups.”