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Wessel van der Deijl is a junior innovator wind energy at the Energy Transition unit of TNO. He made a conscious choice in opting for the variety of projects at TNO: he can focus on aerodynamics, where his academic background lies, but also researches more efficient maintenance of future offshore wind farms.
"The underlying goal of our department is to reduce the cost of wind energy. In the beginning we focused mainly on the design of the turbine itself, both aerodynamically and structurally. Now that the designs have steadily improved, we are also looking for benefits in the prerequisites, such as the operational aspect of wind turbines and their maintenance.
The main question is then: how can we design future offshore wind farms efficiently? And in addition: how can we get maintenance teams out to them as efficiently as possible? These are important questions, because the sea is a demanding environment. Wind farms need ten to twelve maintenance visits each year, so there's a lot to gain if you are smart. To this end, we are also investigating the role robotics can play in creating even more efficiency. We have developed a lot of our own software. This helps us with our own research, but we also sell the software to industry."
"For example, I worked on a large project with a turbine builder who was going to build a new generation of turbines. 12 megawatts, the biggest turbines out there. The question was how to incorporate efficient maintenance as early as the design phase. So we visualised the entire life cycle of a mill. To this end I looked into the current maintenance. What’s involved and how much does it cost? After that, we were able to ask how it could be improved, especially if you step up to 12 megawatts.
My background is in aerodynamics, so I also work on aerodynamic projects. Soon, together with a turbine builder, we are going to build a research turbine, which will have different blades to see what that does to the production. The beauty of these blades is that we can 'attach' different tips to them, because it is the tip that has the most effect on the yield. The aim is of course to develop a turbine that captures as much wind as possible with the least possible load."
"I studied aerospace engineering in Delft. After that I did a master's degree in aerodynamics, specifically in the field of wind energy. During my studies I already had ECN in my sights. This research institute once started out as a specialist in nuclear energy, but later expanded to include sun and wind. Two years ago ECN merged with TNO. ECN has built up a great reputation in wind energy, also internationally. After my graduation I contacted them and dropped by. Beforehand I hadn't even really thought about working there. But then this vacancy came along ...
Nowadays we are part of TNO, as the unit EnergyTransition, and are looking to work with other TNO units. TNO does so much! If something needs to be investigated in the Netherlands, TNO does it. That's why we're in the news so much. I see the power of TNO in connecting. The organisation is very good at bringing people and research together. It really feels like we're in the middle of that triangle between university, business and government.
Moreover, TNO offers a very relaxed working environment, with pleasant working conditions. You have a lot of freedom and are allowed to organise lot of your work yourself, although that also requires responsibility. It's not always easy, but it's more fun in the end."
"I've had a good day when I have gained new insights, had good contact with clients, been able to draw new conclusions from the models and had good discussions with colleagues. I'm curious by nature, so it makes me happy when I get a totally different view of things.
How do I see my future? I feel like I'm just getting started! The work at TNO is extremely varied, but I made a conscious choice to do this. In the past year I have had the opportunity to try many different things: not only research, but also writing proposals and consulting with clients. The great thing about TNO is that you can go in any direction. Looking at myself, I can well imagine staying happy as a researcher. But who knows, maybe in a few years, I'd like to be more involved with clients. The good thing is that at TNO you can do that."