Vattenfall Gets Hundreds of Millions in Gains Through the Application of Operations Research for Offshore Wind Farm Design

Martina Fischetti, Jesper Runge Kristoffersen, Thomas Hjort, Michele Monaci, David Pisinger

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Wind energy is a fast-evolving field that has attracted a lot of attention and investments over the past decades. The development into a more mature and competitive market makes reduction of costs and maximisation of power production imperative already in the design phase of new wind farms. Vattenfall is one of Europe’s major retailers of electricity and heating, and one of the largest producers of electricity and heat in Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, UK, and Sweden. Vattenfall has the ambition to be a leader in the wind energy business, so it needs to develop wind farms with high profitability. Cost reductions and increased power production can be achieved through the use of mathematical models and algorithms. Vattenfall has introduced Operational Research (OR) methods to identify the optimal location of wind turbines in a given site in order to maximise performance and ultimately profits, while reducing costs. By focusing on two complex components of offshore wind park design, wind turbine location and routing for offshore electrical cables, Vattenfall is able to maximize its power output, expand its pipeline, and is on track to reach its target of enabling a fossil free living within one generation. Until a few years ago, OR had never been used in the wind farm design process. The results obtained within our project are extremely successful: savings in the order of 10-15 M€ have been achieved when designing each single wind park. These savings refer to a single park of a standard size (350 MW). If we consider that the pipeline of sites already won by Vattenfall using our tools and now under construction is of 6.5 GW [7], we are talking about savings in the order of 150 M€ in Vattenfall´s pockets and earning projections today. From a multi-step to an all in one process Previously, wind farm design at Vattenfall was a multi-step process depending heavily on the experience of the engineers and standard tools. A preliminary layout was generated, checked for certain factors, adapted, passed to another team for checking and adaptation of other factors and so on. The manual moving around of turbines was time consuming and might even cancel out the previous work done on optimisation of other factors. Now the process is streamlined, as all factors are coded into the optimisers which delivers optimized layout and cable routing to be finalised by experts. The developed OR models and algorithms are now fully integrated into Vattenfall´s wind farm design process, allowing not only for very large gains, but also for a more agile overall design process. The optimiser has been used on a number of real world farms, among which Kriegers Flak in Denmark and Hollandse Kust Zuid in the Netherlands, and it was instrumental in winning both projects in international tenders. The use of the OR tools for what-if analyses lead to the establishment of a new “scenario” team, where different layout options for future parks are quickly evaluated and more informed decisions are taken. The optimizer gave also momentum to Vattenfall´s experts, allowing us time to experiment and think out of the box, testing entirely new ideas and solutions by running the optimiser with various new design factors as input. To have such comprehensive optimisation tools helps Vattenfall to test new ideas and alternative options straight away, and not least to quantify the impact of new design choices from the very first stages - which would not be possible in the more manual process. In addition, Vattenfall can now find out what new turbines makes most value for the company, and feed that to the suppliers, which has an indirect significantly high value. Thanks to this new gained understanding, Vattenfall can now engage with suppliers in novel way and drive innovation in a structured and value oriented way supporting the offshore wind business.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event2019 INFORMS Annual meeting - Seattle, United States
Duration: 20 Oct 201923 Oct 2019


Conference2019 INFORMS Annual meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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