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Renewable Energy and the Role of Engineering Simulation

BlogCAE HubRenewable Energy and the Role of Engineering Simulation

Renewable energy was born out of the need to discover and develop alternative solutions to classic fossil energy based on nature recycling phenomena like wind power, solar bright, water force, post-volcanic emanations, or biofuel improvement. Other renewable power technology—like waves, tidal, and electric cars—are also emerging. R&D investments in the dynamic processes of renewable energy are contributing to the dramatic reduction of production costs and quick assimilation in the energy market.

Natural Phenomena, New Technologies, Optimized Design

Let’s take a quick look at the most popular renewable energy solutions and specific process manufacturing characteristics for equipment and components:

Wind Power: Wind Turbines

Wind turbines are used to generate electricity from the kinetic power of the wind. There are two main kinds of wind generators, those using a vertical axis and those using a horizontal axis. Wind turbines can be used to generate large amounts of electricity in wind farms located both onshore and offshore. Looking to the kinetic source, wind turbine design and optimization are mostly related to the airflow multiple analysis controlling the dimensions, the components profile, and land positioning in order to better adapt to local wind conditions. A wind turbine simulation with the SimScale cloud-based simulation platform is shown a few paragraphs below.

Wind Turbine Higher than the Empire State Building

A research team from several US universities and national laboratories is working on a gigantic wind structure. The turbine will rise nearly a third of a mile into the sky (approx. 480 m), will measure a quarter of a mile in diameter (402 m.), and will be equipped with two or three 656-foot (200 m.) blades that will span more than two football fields. Common industrial turbines have blades under 200 feet (61m.). The massive turbine will be higher than the Empire State Building and will produce 50 megawatts of energy [1].

renewable energy sources
Wind turbines as renewable energy sources

Solar Power: Photovoltaic Systems

The range of solar cells spans different materials and structures in the quest to extract maximum power from the device while keeping the cost to a minimum. Materials used today for the solar cells are crystalline or amorphous silicon, thin film, cadmium telluride, and a copper-indium-gallium-selenide mix [2]. Assuming mathematical simplification specific to simulation algorithms, the best way to improve the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) systems is to optimize the size, structure, and shadow positioning of solar panels. Optimizing PV systems should solve a set of challenges related to light intensity and incidence angle, environmental temperature variation, connection losses minimization, and lower the production costs.


It is produced by using electricity generators to extract energy from moving water. Hydrogeologists and water power engineers are constantly looking for permanent process improvements. Wave, tidal, and ocean energy technologies are just beginning to reach viability as potential commercial power sources. Special buoys, turbines, and other underwater technologies can capture the power of waves and tides and convert it into clean, pollution-free electricity. Like other renewable resources, both wave and tidal energy are variable in nature. [3].

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is created by harnessing geothermal energy from the earth. Any geothermal power plant uses a source of steam coming from the 1-2 km deep underground thermal reservoirs and raising to the surface through boreholes. Depending on the source, the steam from the wells can be dry or moist. Wet steam passes through moisture separators where the used water is going for reinjection back to the underground reservoir. After that, the main steam goes to the turbine which has special requirements. This equipment is subject can be tested and optimized by using thermal and CFD analyses.

Biomass Energy

Biofuels are produced from living organisms or from a renewable process of food waste stocks. Growing energy demands require more sustainable sources of biomass and more efficient conversion processes. Automation systems that support advanced process control strategies can help producers optimize every step of their process and position them to capitalize on the potential opportunities of biomass power generation. This results in increased operational efficiency, lower total cost of ownership, and environmental sustainability [4].

SimScale — A Valuable Tool in the Renewable Energy Industry

The SimScale simulation platform enables engineers working in the renewable energy industry to better understand the physical phenomena, to simulate designs, and to optimize equipment or machinery without leaving the web browser. Providing a full range of analyses, including fluid dynamics, solid mechanics and thermodynamics, SimScale can be a useful tool in the early stages of the design process.

There is a wide range of renewable energy equipment that can benefit from SimScale. From turbines, rotors, blades and other components to photovoltaic panels, valves, recipients, junctions, boilers and heating machines, design engineers and mechanical engineers can virtually test and optimize products in less time and at a significantly lower cost.

renewable energy sources
CFD Analysis of a Wind Turbine Carried Out with SimScale

This airflow simulation of a wind turbine demonstrates how a certain configuration of a wind turbine can be simulated. The external flow around a rotor is simulated and the forces acted by the air upon the rotor are computed. Using the multiple reference frame (MRF) method, the rotational motion of the rotor is ensured. The picture depicts the airspeed near the blades and shows how the streamlines are curved in the vicinity of the rotor. The calculated forces and moments can be used to evaluate the turbine power.

Want to read more? Discover American Wind’s story about how they optimized a micro wind turbine with CFD.



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