PhD Position on Control of Wind Farms University of Leuven, Department of Applied Mechanics and Energy Conversion Belgium



Last modified: 1/12/2017

In recent years, offshore wind energy development has moved towards the deployment of (very) large wind power plants (WPPs). A WPP can consist of hundreds of wind turbines (WTs), each of capacities of 6MW and higher with total WPP capacities of the order of several 100 MWs. In 2015, 13bn € was invested in the installation of 3GW offshore wind energy in Europe. Optimizing the performance of WPPs can therefore significantly reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) and help Europe meet its decarbonisation targets while maintaining competitiveness.
Optimizing the performance of a WPP can be done either through the layout (the relative positioning of the individual WTs) or by operational control. TotalControl aims to develop the next generation of operational control tools for WPPs, covering both traditionally bottom-mounted concepts as well as floating turbines.


Historically, operational control was implemented in each WT. However, the increase in WPPs triggered the development of advanced automatic WPP Controllers that enable a coordinated control of all WTs in a WPP. Modern WPP controllers provide a variety of functions, enabling the control of total active and reactive power, and implementation of all functionalities required by grid codes. This means that standard functionalities such as maximal power production or power plant capabilities are provided at WPP level. However, current state of the art WPP controllers still operate WTs independently as individual machines, thus dispatching the WTs set points in an equal manner to all of them. This approach is safe and reliable, but far from being optimal.


To achieve optimal WPP control, three aspects needs to be addressed:

• Maximizing the yield (power production) balanced against turbine loading and electricity price

• Enhancing WPP capability to provide ancillary services (primary, secondary, and tertiary reserves),

• Reducing operating costs (i.e. reduced fatigue load degradation of WTs and O&M requirement) over the lifetime of the WPP

The ambition of TotalControl is to move WPP controller design philosophy from individual optimization of WTs operation to a coordinated optimization of the overall WPP performance. The TotalControl project aims to achieve this by developing and validating advanced integrated WPP/WT control schemes conditioned on grid demands, in which all essential interactions between the WPP WT’s are accounted for including production, load and O&M aspects.

Within TotalControl, the Turbulent Flow Simulation and Optimization (TFSO) research group at KU Leuven will work on the development and testing of new wind-farm control strategies using high-fidelity simulations, in preparation of actual field testing. The TFSO group is world renowned for its wind-farm simulation research. The group focuses on supercomputing and the development of computational methods for the simulation and optimization of high-Reynolds number turbulent flows with applications to wind energy, atmospheric dispersion, and turbulent boundary layers. The group develops its own fully parallelized simulation software SP-Wind, that consists of a state-of-the-art pseudo-spectral turbulent flow solver for large-eddy simulations and direct numerical simulations, including non-linear adjoints for optimal control, all coupled to fully nonlinear flexible multibody models of wind turbines.


Research: The research concentrates on the evaluation of wind-farm control strategies for different atmospheric conditions by means of high-performance simulation, as well as on the development of new improved control strategies based on optimization. To this end, the in-house simulation and optimization code SP-Wind is extensively used. Research focuses on different control regimes, including power maximization, and provision of ancillary services by power tracking. An important aspect is the balancing of these control aims with turbine loading (effect on turbine lifetime) using multi-objective optimization approaches. The research focuses on the development of physics-based (white-box) control models, that incorporate recent insights gained from high-fidelity flow modelling of wind farms at the TFSO group, as well as new insights gained during the course of the PhD research.  

Timeline and remuneration: Ideal start time is January 1st 2018, but later starting dates are possible. The PhD position lasts for the duration of four years, and is carried out at the University of Leuven. During this time, the candidate also takes up a limited amount (approx. 10% of the time) of teaching activities.The remuneration is generous and is in line with the standard KU Leuven rates. It consists of a net monthly salary of about 1900 Euro (in case of dependent children or spouse, the amount can be somewhat higher).


Candidates have a master degree in one of the following or related fields: fluid mechanics,aerospace or mathematical engineering, numerical mathematics, or computational physics. They should have a good background or interest in fluid mechanics, optimization,simulation, and programming (Fortran, C/C++, MATLAB, Python, …). Proficiency in English is a requirement. The position adheres to the European policy of balanced ethnicity, age and gender. Both men and women are encouraged to apply.



The PhD position lasts for the duration of four years, and is carried out at the University of Leuven, withing the TFSO research group. The remuneration is generous and is in line with the standard KU Leuven rates. It consists of a net monthly salary of about 1900 Euro (in case of dependent children or spouse, the amount can be somewhat higher).


To apply, use the KU Leuven online application platform (applications by email are not considered) Please include: a) an academic CV and a PDF of your diplomas and transcript of course work and grades b) a statement of research interests and career goals, indicating why you are interested in this position c) a sample of technical writing, e.g. a paper with you as main author, or your bachelor or master thesis d) two recommendation letters d) a list of at least two additional references (different from recommendation letters): names, phone numbers, and email addresses e) some proof of proficiency in English (e.g. language test results from TOEFL, IELTS, CAE, or CPE) Please send your application as soon as possible. Decision: as soon as a suitable candidate applies. Starting Date: earliest start is January 1st 2018. Later start is possible.
You can apply for this job no later than March 01, 2018 via the online application tool
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

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