Winning a scholarship for rising talent in renewable energy, Oliver Phelan

Picture: Back row – left to right: Sarah Guilfoyle, Oceanex Energy, Warwick Dawson, Newcastle University, Dr Jos Kisby, Newcastle University. Front row – left to right: Oliver Phelan, Newcastle University and WSP, Emily Scivetti, Oceanex Energy.

Photo credit: Andrew Munger, AJM Photography

Oliver is completing his final year of his Renewable Energy Engineering degree while also working part-time in the WSP office in Newcastle as an undergraduate Renewable Energy student. He received an Oceanex Energy Grant To support his project in the final year. The project explores the forces at play Offshore wind turbines in strong winds, such as those that occur off the Australian coast.

“I expect I will be able to make a recommendation as to whether the turbines will be able to safely withstand the mechanical loads expected in extreme weather events in Australia, and more specifically in Newcastle,” Oliver says.

“Although offshore wind farming is a mature technology in other parts of the world, there is currently no offshore wind infrastructure in Australia. This is an important contribution as it aims to quantify and reduce the risks of offshore turbine installations in Australia.”

The project involves computer simulation of airflow around an offshore wind turbine blade using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software. Oliver drew a model of the blade of a 15-megawatt turbine inside a control volume, a confined space used to simulate airflow near the blade.

He then creates a “mesh” of the 3D model, which divides the model’s surfaces and volumes into small cells in which complex fluid dynamics equations are solved. A finer grid has a larger number of cells and produces more accurate results but requires more simulation time and computational power.

“In my case, I use grids with several million cells and the simulation takes about a week using a high-powered computer server,” explains Oliver. “My network simulations are running, and I’m getting results data in real time.”

A career in renewable energy in the future

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