Practical course: Selected topics in renewable energy


Solar towers use many mirrors to concentrate sun light on a central, tower-mounted receiver. The receiver then transfers the resulting heat to a fluid (i.e. molten salt or air) that, in turn, exchanges the heat to steam which powers a turbine, generating electricity. The placement of the mirrors may lead to individual mirrors being blocked and shaded; this affects the efficiency (and therefore costs) of the power plant. The model is later used for an optimisation process which finds the most efficient arrangement of mirrors.

Gemasolar plant, owned by Torresol Energy © Torresol Energy Investments, S.A.

Gemasolar plant, owned by Torresol Energy © Torresol Energy Investments, S.A.

A similiar problem is given by offshore wind parks, where an optimal placement of wind turbines is wanted, such that the turbines are not placed in the wind shadow of each other.

Barrow Offshore Wind Farm

Preliminary work

To some extent, the above described models are implemented with a C++ code. Also an optimizer (genetic algorithm) was written, which optimizes the positions of the heliostats/offshore wind turbines. And finally the code is presented as web application on in an alpha stage of development (as you can see).


Within this practical course several problems are offered, each will be solved by a group of two to five students.

Master Lab

  • Onshore Wind Farm Model
    Develop a model to simulate onshore wind farms. Considering geo positions and inhomogeneous wind data. This model is later used for the optimization of turbine placements.
  • Web Application for Offshore Wind Farms
    Further development of the web application for solar tower power plants and for wind farms. The web application relies on WebGL visualizations to maintain an intuitive interaction pattern. Your task will be to employ among others Polymer 2.0, SailsJs and ThreeJs to extend the existing project and develop new features and visualizations for the application.
  • Multi-Tower Heliostat Field Optimization
    Optimize heliostat field layouts for solar tower power plants with two or three towers. Implement Tabu Search and a Triangulation Algorithm. Consider multiple objective functions (Pareto front) and apply a post-processing step (Local Search). Optimize the planned solar power plant Redstone in South Africa.
  • Optimal Control in Linear Concentrated Power Plants
    Find the optimal control of a power plant with several tubes in parallel.
  • Solar Tower Optimal Aiming Strategy
    Find an optimal aiming strategy for each heliostat. Consider reactions to clouds and minimize the movements of single heliostats.

Bachelor Software Lab

  • Offshore Wind Farm Layout Optimization
    Optimize the positioning of wind turbines in an offshore wind farm. Implement Tabu Search on a tilted rectangular grid and on a regular triangular grid. Apply a post-processing step (Local Search) and optimize the existing wind farms Horns Rev, DanTysk, and Sandbank which are all placed in the North Sea.


For all topics basic skills in C++ is needed. For the web application, additionally experience with html, php, Polymer, and WebGL is helpful. Please state in which topic you are interested the most. If you already have a favorite partner, please indicate him/her, such that we could select you both during the registration process.


This project is a corporation of the Theory of Hybrid Systems (i2) research group headed by Prof. Dr. Erika Ábrahám, and the research group for Continuous Optimization at IGPM. The project will be co-supervised by Pascal Richter. For further questions please contact Pascal Richter.