PhD Studentship in Experimental Fluid Mechanics: Tackling the Global Blockage Problem in a Wind-Farm Due to Interactions Between Turbulent Wakes

17 609 £
Date Placed 11 January

Applications are invited for a Ph.D. studentship in the Departments of Aeronautics. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work as part of a dedicated team within an EPSRC-funded fellowship seeking to improve the tools needed for wind-farm optimisation under the supervision of Dr. Oliver Buxton.

Wind turbines produce turbulent wakes of slower moving, chaotic fluid which impact on downstream turbines (as illustrated in the above figure) leading to i) a reduced power yield from these turbines and ii) a reduced power output for the wind farm as a whole due to the global blockage presented to the oncoming flow, similarly to the effect of the trees reducing the wind speed within a forest. This fellowship brings together various strands of research on the interaction between turbulent flows and wind turbines to optimise the layout of future wind farms; vital to achieving net-zero goals. Two industrial partners (Vestas and Frazer Nash Consulting) and the University of Oldenburg will contribute to this fellowship.

This PhD project focuses on modelling this global blockage phenomenon, which is of pressing concern to the wind-energy industry. Orsted (the world’s largest operator of offshore wind farms) had to reduce its long-term financial forecasts in 2019 largely as a result of not factoring in the global blockage effect. We will conduct state-of-the-art experiments in Imperial College’s wind tunnels, on various configurations of imitation wind farms, to measure the cumulative wakes produced by arrays of representative wind turbines and the impact this has on the expected power output. In particular we will perform PIV, hot-wire, and force measurements in the 10x5 wind tunnel which is one of the largest academic wind tunnels in the UK and the host of the National Wind Tunnel Facility. The data generated from these experiments will be used to model wind-farm wakes, of increasing importance as prime wind-farm locations such as the North Sea become crowded, as well as the global blockage effect on expected power production for the farm itself. This will be used to produce the merit function (rewarding power production and penalising expected maintenance downtime) that will be used to optimise future wind farms.

The post-holder will gain experience in:

experimental fluid mechanics using state-of-the-art wind tunnels and measurement techniques;

turbulence theory and analytical techniques;

wind-farm modelling and optimisation;

working in a multi-disciplinary team on a large research project.

In addition, the successful candidate will be expected to submit publications to refereed journals and to present their findings at major international conferences. 

Applicants should have a strong background in fluid mechanics. Applications are invited from candidates who possess (or expect to gain) a first-class honours M.Eng or higher degree or equivalent in Aeronautics, Mechanical Engineering or related areas.

This studentship is available for students eligible for home fees. Information on fee status can be found at

The studentship is for 3.5 years and will provide full coverage of tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £17,609.

Information on fee status -

Start date-Oct’23

If you are interested in applying, please contact Dr Oliver Buxton (

For queries regarding application process, contact Lisa Kelly at<br><br>London