AIRE, a new European project to study the atmospheric flow integrating real climate conditions

  • The AIRE project, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon Europe program, will design advanced numerical models that will act as a catalyst to the growth of wind energy and thereby, supporting the European Union’s decarbonisation commitments.
  • CENER, the National Renewable Energy Centre of Spain, leads this initiative in collaboration with eleven other partners from six different European countries also participating.

Pamplona, January 18, 2023 – Last Wednesday 11th was the launching of the promising AIRE project, led by CENER. This project will foster the knowledge about atmospheric impacts in wind energy production devices and will provide advance design and simulations tools to maximize the overall efficiency of this energy despite the weather conditions.

One of the main EU’s 2050 energy transition targets is to achieve long-term structural change in energy systems that will lower the costs and increase the production of renewable energy. To this end, the EU sees the promotion of wind energy as one of the biggest opportunities in the renewable energy sector. However, traditional wind turbines and wind farms are normally designed using standard wind conditions and operational cases, and these models do not consider the physics and aerodynamics of atmospheric wind flows at high altitudes or weather conditions such as precipitation and haze, that can severely impact the production capacity of the turbine. Indeed, wind energy actors are developing wind turbines that are larger, using new materials and operating at higher altitudes, which also increases the exposed surface to the elements, and the altitude level in which these atmospheric interactions happen. This implies a higher necessity to clearly understand the impact of atmospheric events to prevent inefficiencies that could drain the increased production capacity.

To achieve the production targets set by the EU, it is crucial to understand the impact of atmospheric flow at higher altitudes and complex terrains, in correlation with data on wind and precipitation. This data will ensure that wind farm location and the chosen turbines are adequately chosen to provide the best efficiency. Only then will the potential lifetime economics of wind farms be fully understood.

To address this situation, the European research project AIRE (Advanced study of the atmospheric flow Integrating REal climate conditions), led by CENER has been launched to develop novel numerical models and design tools that aim to understand and integrate the physics and aerodynamic impacts of atmospheric wind flows and precipitation influence on the design, durability, and performance of wind turbines and wind farms. The models will be created based on real data provided by 8 sites under study, 4 experimental sites (Alaiz, Spain; Levenmouth, Scotland; Gran Canaria – Canary Islands, Spain; Roskilde, Denmark) and 4 commercial wind farms (Spain; France; Italy; Scotland). The validation of the models will be conducted across five case studies in three climate and geographical sites (high altitude, complex terrain and offshore) based on the commercial wind farms utilised for the data gathering.

Over the next four years, the AIRE project will have a substantial influence on:

  • Allowing wind farm developers to select the optimal wind turbine designs and wind farm control.
  • Lower the risk for wind farm investors, encouraging further investment in the sector.
  • Lower the manufacturing and operational cost of wind energy.
  • Better erosion control via mitigation measures.

During two days of work on January 11th and 12th, at CENER’s headquarters in Sarriguren (Navarra-Spain), the AIRE project kicked off as a public-private initiative by 11 organizations from 6 different countries and different sectors. In addition to CENER (Spain), which will lead the consortium, the Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (DTU, Denmark) will lead the atmospheric conditions evaluation and new tools definition, Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy Systems (IWES, Germany) will lead the cases studies to test AIRE´s tools and models and Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus (VTT, Finland) will lead the model developments. In addition, Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult (UK) will carry out environmental and erosion studies on its offshore site, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE, Denmark) – leader in renewable energy having installed blades and turbines in more than 90 countries – will support the project with their expertise in wind turbine design, the utilities CAPITAL ENERGY (Spain) and ENGIE (France) that together operate more than 400 wind farms worldwide (onshore and offshore) will provide data, public R&D infrastructure and data providers Plataforma Oceánica de Canarias (PLOCAN, Canary Island) with University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) will provide environmental information for subtropical regions and their exceptional meteorological conditions (such as the dust suspension episodes from the Saharan dessert, when sand and particles are present in the wind current) and the technology transfer company Inveniam Group (Inveniam, Spain) will support the project management and results dissemination.