PhD research investment helps increase wind turbine efficiency

25th July 2017
Posted By : Alice Matthews
PhD research investment helps increase wind turbine efficiency

By supporting two PhD research studentships through the Durham Energy Institute (DEI), DONG Energy is continuing its long-standing relationship with Durham University. DONG Energy has funded the Chair in Renewable Energy position at DEI and endowed three MSc scholarships for Durham University students each year since 2011. DONG Energy will now support two PhDs as well, which will focus on the operation of wind turbines and helping to predict technical faults before they happen.

Benj Sykes, DONG Energy’s UK Country Manager, said: “DONG Energy is committed to investing in the UK and we’re delighted to be continuing our partnership with the Durham Energy Institute through these two PhDs, alongside our existing sponsorship of Masters students and wider support.

“We’re passionate about supporting skills, education and the future of the offshore wind industry in the UK, and this important research into the operation of wind turbines could prove hugely significant in the future.”

Simon Hogg, DONG Energy Professor in Renewable Energy at Durham University, said: “Durham Energy Institute believes that addressing energy challenges collaboratively through strong partnerships with industry ensures exciting research initiatives with real world applications that achieve maximum impact in the energy sector.

“Our work with DONG Energy and these new joint PhDs are the perfect exemplar of this approach in action. We believe the research undertaken will help to make the UK wind sector even more economically competitive and a reliable part of the UK and European energy mix moving forward. This research will add to the range of exciting collaborative initiatives we are engaging in with DONG Energy, which are helping to make the UK the world leader in offshore wind energy research and installed capacity.”

The two PhD research programmes are a direct outcome of a secondment by Durham University Assistant Professor Dr Peter Matthews (pictured third from left) to DONG Energy in Denmark, which revealed that wind turbine maintenance logs represent a rich source of data that would support significant advances in machine learning for improving wind turbine operational efficiency and availability.

The PhDs will bring together turbine maintenance data and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) data, with a view to developing algorithms for predicting turbine malfunction. One student (Roger Cox, pictured right) will focus on developing a method for analysing and categorising relevant maintenance issues from the maintenance database. This will feed into the work of the second student (Luke Payne, pictured left), who will focus on developing advanced data methods to positively identify turbines that are developing faults before they become critical and require the turbine to be taken off line.

This research could prove vital in improving the availability of offshore wind turbines, ultimately helping to further drive down the cost of energy.

The PhD research The PhDs will be supervised by Dr Matthews and Dr Christopher Crabtree (pictured second from left) from Engineering at Durham University, and will be undertaken both in Durham and on site at DONG Energy's offices. By including the students as part of the DONG Energy team, they will be able to rapidly gain deep understanding of the company’s key challenges and priorities. This will ensure that research remains highly relevant to DONG Energy, as well as enabling knowledge transfer between DONG Energy and Durham University.

Cox is an experienced mechanical engineer who has worked on a number of renewable energy projects, while Payne is a trained mathematician who has been involved with various data driven wind energy problems.

The research is expected to be completed in December 2020 and DONG Energy is funding 66% of the two PhDs, with the remaining 34% funded by Durham University.


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