Renewable Energy

The term renewable energy encompasses an incredibly diverse array of innovative technologies that capitalize on natural sources for power generation. From traditional and new resources — such as biomass, water, wind, sun-powered fuel cells, tidal and wave, and geothermal — renewable energy is playing an ever-increasing role in the global share of electricity generation, as both energy producers and consumers seek to minimize their environmental impacts while balancing real-world financial and efficiency pressures.

Tidal turbine CFD simulation

In particular, as energy scientists and engineers work to maximize output and minimize costs, they rely on engineering simulation software from ANSYS to develop new renewable energy equipment and improve reliability and performance of exciting systems From testing for the electrochemical performance of a fuel cell stack to optimizing the design of biomass reactors and photovoltaic collectors, ANSYS solutions help to speed the development process, bringing renewable technologies rapidly to market. By minimizing the time, money and other resources invested in physical prototypes and testing, software from ANSYS makes these renewable energy technologies as efficient to develop as they are to use in satisfying the growing global demand for energy.

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Wind Wind

Wind energy is growing as contributors to the global energy mix. The wind turbine design and manufacturing sector represents a complex engineering field, especially as is develops ever-larger blades subjected to fluctuating wind loading at varying angles of attack.

Engineering simulation software from ANSYS provides an integrated environment designed to solve the fundamental mathematical equations related to structural mechanics, fluid mechanics, thermal science, vibration analysis, electromagnetic studies and acoustics science. The technology also analyzes the interdependency of underlying physics in multiphysics simulations, especially critical for wind energy engineers since turbines often include all aspects of fluid, structural and electrical design.

Wind energy engineers use ANSYS solutions to develop ongoing technology innovations across the wind energy supply chain in both small and large wind projects. The software helps organizations to develop, manufacture, transport and install wind turbines no matter the goal, including reduced cost, improved wind turbine reliability, and operating efficiency. Engineering simulation software from ANSYS addresses the full range of engineering challenges involved in wind energy systems, including these specific applications:

  • Aerodynamic design (thrust coefficients, blade structural integrity, ultimate loads and fatigue, noise prediction, wind gusts, fluid–structure interaction, bird strikes, icing, boundary layer transition, near wake and far field studies)
  • Structural design (tower and rotor structural integrity/safety, power conversion efficiency, installation and maintenance, offshore transport and installation)
  • Component design (blades, gearboxes and bearings, generator, nacelles, rotors, yaw drives, yaw motors)
  • Site selection and farm layout (maximum project potential, peak and average power outputs, wind loads, fatigue rates, logistics)
  • Turbine placement (variable terrain, rough terrain, forestry issues, multiple wake effects, building and setbacks)
  • Electromechanical systems (electrical machines, variable-speed control systems, transformers, power electronics, power distribution systems, sensor and actuator design)
  • Manufacturing processes (composites engineering)


Offshore turbine blade deformation

Courtesy REpower.

Solar Solar

Solar energy engineers are working to leverage the full power of sunlight by developing new processes to produce solar panels, especially ones that are more reliable and cost effective and that can withstand variations in supporting temperature, wind forces, and hail and other air-born debris impacts. Additionally, solar panels applications are on the rise for rooftop installation, developing large-scale concentrated solar power (CSP) plants and even for powering mobile devices.

As materials, equipment design and production processes have improved, solar energy systems have become more competitive. Innovation and product improvement has produced example panels that have higher photon absorption rates, charge transport rates and other performance factors.

ANSYS software solutions are used throughout the solar energy industry in material processing, manufacturing, and installation of panels and components. It is possible to simulate every type of solar energy technology, including Si-based systems, CdTe thin films, CIG systems, ribbons, glass substrate deposition technologies and edge-defined growth (EDG) solar cells. Simulation software from ANSYS supports solar engineers as they seek to reduce manufacturing costs, improve stability and storage capacities, and take energy efficiency to new limits. Multiphysics capabilities enable engineers to consider a variety of performance factors, from crystal growth rates to wind loads on exterior solar panels.

Resultant wind forces on solar panels

Software from ANSYS is playing a key role in helping to improve equipment, processes and materials in a range of solar applications, including emerging technology areas such as thin films and organic solar cells. ANSYS solutions can be used in these and other solar energy applications:

  • Design of both large and small photovoltaic (PV) collection systems
  • Development of PV components such as modules, inverters and trackers
  • Modeling of concentrated solar power systems
  • Design of CSP components such as central receivers, receiver tubes and mirrors
  • Analysis of new solar collection materials
  • Power plant design, including steam turbines, storage systems and other equipment
  • Development of innovative new storage and cooling technologies

Hydropower Hydropower

As society seeks renewable energy sources with minimal environmental impact, hydropower is receiving increasing attention. The concept of a hydropower plant is simple — harness and store the natural energy of flowing water — but, in practice, it is difficult to manage unpredictable flow rates and other daily performance issues.

 Sample CFD results, hydraulic turbine

Usually, water entering a hydropower plant is far from uniform in flow. It may contain debris and support fish and other wildlife. At the point of intake, a number of factors can create irregular distribution of velocity and turbulence — including bends in the waterway or obstructions such as debris screens and underwater piping systems associated with a plant. These uncertainties significantly impact the everyday efficiency and energy outputs of hydropower facilities.

Hydropower energy organizations have used the ANSYS computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools developed specifically for rotating systems as well as structural mechanics and electromagnetic solutions. Such simulations help to optimize power generation capabilities and day-to-day performance of hydropower plants by analyzing their operations in a virtual environment. The process leads to rapid, cost-effective improvements.

Applied to individual turbines and intake valves as well as entire plants, ANSYS solutions bring a full range of physics to bear in modeling the complex workings of hydropower facilities. Powerful engineering simulation tools from ANSYS support engineers as they design new facilities, upgrade or refurbish existing plants, and perform general service and maintenance work.

Software from ANSYS is ideal for a range of applications in the hydropower industry:

  • Modeling intakes and spillways, sediment characteristics and erosion patterns
  • Structural design of power plants
  • Development of fishways, debris screens and other waterway components
  • Design of power generation and transmission systems
  • Impact and explicit structural analysis
  • Retrofits and upgrades for increased production
  • Design of generators, high-pressure turbines, pumps and other equipment
  • Environmental impact studies
  • Loss and power consumption analysis, coupled with stress analysis
  • Modeling hydraulic loads, pressure fluctuation and vibration

Fuel Cells Fuel Cells

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that produce electricity from an external fuel supply (on the anode side) and an oxidant (on the cathode side). The devices provide a targeted solution for power generation as well as an energy source for transportation. The challenges in this sector include reducing size, weight and power-per-unit cost and improving reliability.

Current density in fuel cell stack

ANSYS simulation tools are capable of modeling and predicting the electrical, thermal and fluid performance of a single fuel cell — as well as complex fuel cell stacks. Powerful computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools from ANSYS can help to streamline both cell- and stack-level testing, using numerical modeling to arrive at optimized fuel cell designs with superior power generation rates, reliability and durability. Simulation tools from ANSYS also help in assessing the role of thermal and electromechanical stresses on cell and stack performance.

Specialized tools for fuel cell engineers include Ansoft modeling solutions for electrical circuits and related electronic control systems as well as Simplorer software, which enables system-level modelling of stacks.

Built for power, speed and accuracy, simulation tools from ANSYS help fuel cell designers and engineers to model and improve performance in these areas:

  • Electrochemistry: Software from ANSYS models appropriate chemical reactions for SOFC and PEMFC, which are used to predict local current density and voltage distributions at electrolyte surfaces. Electrochemical models consider the losses due to activation overpotential (kinetic losses), ohmic overpotential (losses due to ionic transport in the electrolyte) and concentration overpotential (losses due to inadequate diffusion of species through the electrodes). Binary diffusion coefficients are used to calculate  molecular diffusion of gaseous species throughout the domain.
  • Liquid water flows in porous diffusion layers: ANSYS offers a multiphase mixture model that predicts the flow of liquid water through porous diffusion layers and into flow channels in PEM fuel cells. Water is produced at the interface between the MEA and the cathode porous diffusion layer as a result of electrochemistry and water transport due to water drag. If the cathode gas flow is saturated, this water is produced in liquid form. The multiphase mixture model from ANSYS solves for conservation of mass, momentum, energy and species in the porous diffusion layer. In addition to describing liquid water flows, ANSYS tools produce local values of liquid volume fraction within porous media. The resulting effect on local void fraction is used to modify the local values of gas phase diffusivity, thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity throughout the cathode diffusion layer. This modification to the transport properties for local water concentration accurately models the effect of water production on mass diffusion, heat conduction and electrical conduction.
  • Liquid water flow in channels: A multiphase modeling capability allows engineers to study the flow of liquid water as it leaves the porous diffusion layer and enters flow channels as a thin liquid film in PEM fuel cells. As liquid water reaches the surface of the diffusion layer, it is introduced into the gas flow passage as a thin liquid film of drops, where shear between the gas flow and film surface can move the film. Software from ANSYS considers both gravitational and surface tension forces. The re-entry of liquid water from the thin film back into the diffusion layer is also permitted.
  • Membrane-electrode assembly (MEA): A customized MEA modeling capability predicts the net transfer of liquid water and electrical losses across the membrane-electrode assembly — consisting of the thin polymer membrane and catalyst layers — in PEM fuel cells. Liquid water travels across the membrane due to electro-osmatic drag and molecular diffusion. Simulation tools calculate the protonic conductivity of MEA as a function of both water concentration and temperature.
  • Potential fields: Software from ANSYS has the ability to predict current, voltage and ohmic heating in all conducting solid and porous regions of SO and PEM fuel cells. ANSYS tools also consider the contact resistance at appropriate interfaces.

Biofuel & Biomass Biofuel & Biomass

Biological materials, such as plants, can produce energy through combustion or biochemical processes such as fermentation and decay. While energy from biological systems currently plays a limited role — used primarily in agriculture and small-scale domestic applications — the role of biomasses and biofuels in the global energy mix is steadily increasing, especially as engineers develop new technologies for liquid fuels and more sustainable biomass processes.

ANSYS solutions are helping engineers to develop a wide range of innovative technologies that improve both the energy production and pollution rates of novel biopower resources. These complex applications require the full range of multiphysics capabilities delivered by ANSYS — including fluid mechanics, structural analysis, thermal science, combustion and chemical reaction modeling, processing equipment design, and the analysis of sophisticated electronic control and power systems.

In the biofuels segment, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools from ANSYS are enabling engineers to develop new processes and equipment to convert sugar, starch or cellulous biomaterial into fuels as well as to perform large-scale systems analyses. Specifically, software from ANSYS can model and improve the designs of a number of critical biofuel components:

  • Reactors for hydrogeneration, fermentation and other bioprocesses
  • Fixed-bed or tubular reactors
  • Reformers
  • Hydrotreaters
  • Pressure vessels
  • Gas-to-liquid synthesis systems
  • Algae bioreactors and other emission-to-fuel concepts

Biomass cofired furnace

Courtesy RMT - SmartBurn®.

In the biomass industry sector, ANSYS solutions are helping to optimize conventional combustion of biomass waste streams as well as production, transportation and processing of crops specifically grown for use as energy. In time, as engineers create ongoing innovations, biomass is expected to become much more cost-effective, increasing its role in the renewable energy mix. ANSYS software is used to model and design many biomass processes and components:

  • New systems to convert biomass into liquid fuel
  • Cofired power generation plants that combine biomass with fossil fuels
  • Plant retrofits and upgrades
  • Steam generation and processing equipment
  • Power generation components such as turbines
  • Gasification systems
  • Direct combustion equipment such as burners, boilers and furnaces
  • Preheaters, heaters and heat exchangers
  • Anaerobic digestion vessels and mixers
  • Methane capturing and processing equipment
  • Biomass pellets and associated processes and equipment
  • Air quality and pollution control devices
  • Ash and particulate control systems
  • Emission, erosion and impact studies