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Renewable Energy 30 (2005) 259270

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Technical note

Placement of wind turbines using


genetic algorithms
S.A. Grady a,, M.Y. Hussaini a, M.M. Abdullah b
a

School for Computational Science and Information Technology, The Florida State University,
400 Dirac Science Library, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4120, USA
Department of Civil Engineering, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, Florida A&M University,
2525 Pottsdammer Street, Tallahassee, FL 32310, USA
Received 8 February 2004; accepted 6 May 2004

Abstract
A genetic algorithm approach is employed to obtain optimal placement of wind turbines
for maximum production capacity while limiting the number of turbines installed and the
acreage of land occupied by each wind farm. Specically, three cases are considered(a)
unidirectional uniform wind, (b) uniform wind with variable direction, and (c) non-uniform
wind with variable direction. In Case (a), 600 individuals are initially distributed over
20 subpopulations and evolve over 3000 generations. Case (b) has 600 individuals spread
over 20 subpopulations initially and evolves for 3000 generations. Case (c) starts with 600
individuals spread over 20 subpopulations and evolves for 2500 generations. In addition to
optimal congurations, results include tness, total power output, eciency of power output
and number of turbines for each conguration. Disagreement with the results of an earlier
study is observed and a possible explanation is provided.
# 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Wind turbines; Siting; Optimization; Genetic algorithm

1. Introduction
Two main reasons for interest in wind as an energy source are diminishing fossil
fuel resources and the eect use of fossil fuel sources has on the environment.
Wind energy, a widely available derivative of solar energy that has been captured

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-850-644-4911; fax: +1-850-644-0098.


E-mail address: grady@csit.fsu.edu (S.A. Grady).

0960-1481/$ - see front matter # 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.renene.2004.05.007

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S.A. Grady et al. / Renewable Energy 30 (2005) 259270

by the earths atmosphere, is receiving considerable attention as an emission-free,


low cost alternative to traditional energy sources. Considerable development has
taken place in the design of wind energy conversion systems. Modern wind turbines are highly sophisticated machines built on the aerodynamic principles
developed in the aerospace industry. Advanced materials and electronics have been
incorporated into wind turbines designed to deliver energy across a wide range of
wind speeds.
As rule of thumb, 10 ha/MW can be taken as the land requirement of wind
farms, including infrastructure [1]. The spacing of a cluster of machines in a wind
farm depends on the terrain, the wind direction and speed, and the turbine size.
According to Patel, the optimal spacing is found in rows 812 rotor diameters
apart in the windward direction, and 1.53 rotor diameters apart in the crosswind
direction [2]. Ammara et al. [3] contended that this intuitive spacing scheme resulted in sparse wind farms that were ineciently using the wind energy potential of
the site. A dense, staggered siting scheme was proposed that would yield production similar to the sparse scheme, but would use less land. While this approach
successfully reduced the land mass required for a given amount of wind turbines,
the method of placement was still intuitive.
Mosetti et al. proposed a position optimization scheme based on genetic algorithms [4]. In this research, algorithms were developed for wind farm performance
evaluation and optimization. The investment cost and the total power extracted
were the variables optimized. The wind and cost models chosen were incomplex for
the purposes of demonstrating the eectiveness of the optimization algorithm.
While the power and eciency calculations of the optimally placed wind turbines
compare favorably with a greater number of randomly placed turbines, the optimal
congurations presented do not yield even the simplest empirical placement
schemes. This study seeks to determine the eectiveness of the genetic algorithm
optimization procedure in identifying optimum congurations.

2. Wake and cost modeling


As in the Mosetti study, a wake model similar to the Jensen analysis is used for
simplication of the wind eld calculations [47]. This wake analysis is based on
the assumption that momentum is conserved inside the wake. In the analysis of a
single wake, the near eld behind the wind turbine is neglected making it possible
to model the resulting wake as a turbulent wake or a negative jet. At the turbine,
the wake has a radius equal to the turbine radius, rr. As the wake propagates
downstream, the radius of the wake, r1, increases linearly, proportional to the
downstream distance, x, as shown in Fig. 1.
After performing a momentum balance and using Betz theory to determine the
wind speed immediately behind the rotor, the following expression is derived to

S.A. Grady et al. / Renewable Energy 30 (2005) 259270

261

Fig. 1. Schematic of wake model.

describe the wind speed downstream of the turbine:



u u0 1 


2a
;
1 ax=r1

where u0 is the mean wind speed, a is the axial induction factor, x is the distance
downstream of the turbine, r1 is the downstream rotor radius, and a is the entrainment constant. The downstream radius, r1, is related to the rotor radius, rr, by the
following expression:
r
1a
r1 rr
:
1  2a

The turbine thrust coecient, CT, is related to the axial induction factor in the
following relation:
CT 4a1  a:

The entrainment constant, a, is empirically given as:


a

0:5
;
lnz=z0

where z is the hub height of the wind turbine, and z0 is the surface roughness.
In the instance of a wind turbine encountering multiple wakes, the kinetic energy
of the mixed wake can be assumed to be equal to the sum of the kinetic energy deficits. This results in the following expression for the velocity downstream of N tur-

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bines:

v3
u N 

uX
u 25
t
4
:
ui u0 1 
1
u0
i1
2

The power extracted from the wind by a wind turbine is a function of local wind
speed. Direction, intensity, and probability of occurrence are characteristics dening
the local wind eld. Particular aspects of the wind turbine aecting the power
extracted are hub height, rotor diameter, and thrust coecient.
The investment cost of the wind turbines is modeled in such a manner that only
the number of turbines need be considered in calculating the total cost. Mosetti
et al. assumed that the non-dimensionalized cost/year of a single turbine is one
with a maximum reduction in cost of 1/3 for each additional turbine, provided a
large number of them are installed. Consequently, it can be assumed that the total
cost/year for the entire wind park can be expressed as follows [4]:


2 1 0:00174N 2
cost N
e
:
6
3 3
The optimization will proceed based on the following objective function:
Objective

cost
;
Ptot

where cost is described above, and Ptot is the total power extracted by all of the N
turbines in the wind farm. This objective function will minimize the cost per unit
energy produced.
3. Optimization
Genetic algorithms are probabilistic search algorithms combining the mechanics
of natural selection and survival of the ttest. These algorithms are capable of
eciently nding an optimal solution for complex problems without necessitating
reformulation for the evaluation of individual solution candidates. Unlike calculusbased methods, genetic algorithms are robust, global, and do not require the
existence of derivatives for search. Enumerative schemes are lacking in robustness
due to ineciency in the search of each point in the solution space. Random searches, in the long run, do not perform any better than enumerative methods and are
likewise inecient.
Genetic algorithms operate on a coding of the parameter set rather than the
parameters themselves. The locus of search is over a population rather than a single point. The genetic algorithm only requires information from the objective function, not derivatives of the objective or other collateral information. Transition
rules in genetic algorithms are probabilistic, not deterministic [8].
The coding, breeding, and selection of the parameters in the search space determine the evolution of the solution in genetic algorithms. In a binary coded genetic

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263

Fig. 2. Genetic algorithm breeding schemes.

algorithm, individuals are strings comprised of ones and zeros. Several individuals
make up a population, and within this population, parent individuals are reproduced. The ttest individuals will be selected, and parent pairs will be reproduced
by crossover. In a uniform crossover operation, any point in the string has potential to become a crossover point. Crossover points are chosen randomly, with each
parent having equal probability of contributing variables to the ospring [9].
Mutation is the random switching of a bit in the individual string to the opposite
value and ensures that the genetic algorithm does not locate a false minimum as
the solution. The illustration in Fig. 2 shows examples of the breeding process in
genetic algorithms.
In the implementation of the genetic algorithm for optimization, the population
size, the number of subpopulations, and the maximum number of generations for
evolution must be chose. All of these quantities are determined based on the number of independent variables, n, in the system to be optimized. The population
must contain enough individuals to adequately span the computational space. The
p
population size should contain a minimum of n individuals, spread over subp
p
populations numbering 2 n. The minimum number of generations is 200 n [9].

Fig. 3. Case (a): uniform wind speed.

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Table 1
Wind turbine properties
Hub height (z)
Rotor radius (rr)
Thrust coecient (CT)

60 m
40 m
0.88

4. Numerical procedure
A square grid divided into 100 possible turbine locations was used as the computational domain. The width of each cell, in the center of which a turbine would be
placed, is equal to ve rotor diameters, 5D, or 200 m, giving the domain dimensions of 50D  50D. Based on the dimensions of the computational domain, the
maximum radius of the wake from a single turbine placed in the position x; y
100 m; 100 m (see Fig. 3 as a reference) is 189.9 m. The width of each cell, in
the center of which a turbine would be placed, is equal to ve rotor diameters, or
200 m. Therefore, the wake of a column of turbines would not aect turbines in an
adjacent column. In addition, the 5D square grid size already satises the rule of
thumb spacing requirements in the vertical and horizontal directions.
The turbine considered for this study has properties as given in Table 1. The
thrust coecient can be considered constant for the velocities considered. The
ground roughness of the site is z0 0:3 m. The power curve presented in Mosetti
for the turbine under consideration yields the following expression for power:
P

N
X

0:3u3i :

Three cases will be investigated. The rst case, (a), is the case of uniform wind
direction with a wind speed of 12 m/s, as shown in Fig. 3. The only change in
wind speed for this case would occur in the wake of the wind turbines. The second
case, (b), is the case of multi-directional wind with a mean wind speed of 12 m/s.
Each of the 36 angles under consideration represent 10 degree increments from 0 to
360 degrees each of which has an equal fraction of occurrence. The third case, (c), is
that of wind having multiple directions and variable speeds of 8, 12, and 17 m/s.
The fraction of occurrence for each angle at each wind speed is shown in Fig. 4,
where the sum of occurrences is unity.

5. Results and discussion


5.1. Case (a)
The optimal solution for Case (a) can be derived heuristically. The domain
under consideration for this study uses a wake model that increases in diameter
only as a function of downstream distance. A simple optimization of one 10-cell
column in the computational domain can therefore be projected across the entire

S.A. Grady et al. / Renewable Energy 30 (2005) 259270

Fig. 4. Case (c): variable direction, variable wind speed.

Fig. 5. Single 10-cell column from computational domain.

265

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Fig. 6. Case (a): optimal congurations (i) Mosetti et al.s study, and (ii) present study.

domain in order to nd the optimal solution for this simple wind scenario. This
optimization produced an optimal conguration of three turbines in positions 1, 6
and 10 as shown in Fig. 5. This conguration will produce 1431 kW year of power
with a tness value of 0.0020927. By placing the middle turbine at position 5 rather
than position 6, the power produced is reduced to 1430 kW year with a tness
value of 0.0020943. The dierence is subtle, but when this column is projected
across the computational domain, the dierence becomes signicant.
Optimal solutions for case 1 are presented in Fig. 6. The Mossetti et al. solution
for is shown in Fig. 6(i). The heuristic solution and the solution obtained by this
present work were identical and are presented in Fig. 6(ii). Table 2 is a comparison of the tness, total power output, eciency of power output and number of
turbines for each conguration. While the eciency of power produced in the previous Mosetti et al. study and the current study are comparable, the total power
out produced is greater for this study. Dierences in coding notwithstanding, it is
possible that the work done by Mosetti et al. did not run enough individuals for
sucient generations. In that study, a population of 200 individuals was allowed to
evolve over 400 generations, upon which time it was determined to have reached
convergence. In the present study, 600 individuals distributed among 20 subpopulations were allowed to evolve over 3000 generations. While the number of
generations was high, the solution was reached after 1203 generations and
Table 2
Comparison of solution characteristicsCase (a)

Fitness value
Total power (kW year)
Eciency (%)
Number of turbines

ii

0.0016197
12 352
91.645
26

0.0015436
14 310
92.015
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267

Fig. 7. Fitness curve for population size of 600 for Case (a).

remained constant for the remainder of the run. Fig. 7 shows the tness evolution
over this period.
5.2. Case (b)
For the more complicated case of multi-directional wind, the optimal solution is
not empirical. However, it is assumed that a similarly ordered solution is obtainable for this case. With each angle receiving equal probability of occurring, it can
be presumed that no direction will be preferred in the solution. In the example of
Mosetti et al., this translated into a solution that had turbines scattered around the
outer perimeter of the domain, with few in the center. Fig. 8(i) shows the optimized
conguration obtained by Mosetti et al., and Fig. 8(ii) shows the optimized conguration obtained in this study. Table 3 is a comparison of the tness, total
power output, eciency of power output and number of turbines for each con-

Fig. 8. Case (b): optimal congurations(i) Mosetti et al.s study, and (ii) present study.

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Table 3
Comparison of solution characteristicsCase (b)

Fitness value
Total power (kW year)
Eciency (%)
Number of turbines

ii

0.0017371
9244.7
93.859
19

0.0015666
17 220
85.174
39

Fig. 9. Fitness curve for population size of 600 for Case (b).

guration. The increased number of turbines included in the optimal conguration


obtained for this study increases the total power for the wind farm. This number of
turbines and level of power output are optimized for cost per unit of power produced, yielding a tness value lower than the Mosetti et al. conguration, which
included 20 fewer turbines than the current study. The drawback of this increased
number of turbines is that the eciency of the power produced by the wind farm
as a whole is decreased from ~93% to ~85%. While it would be desirable to have a
more ecient system of turbines, the eciency of power produced was not a parameter included in the objective function for optimization of this problem. This
could be a constraint added to the problem for future research. Case (b) was run
with 600 individuals distributed over 20 subpopulations and allowed of evolve for
3000 generations. Fig. 9 shows the tness evolution over this period.
5.3. Case (c)
From Fig. 4, it is obvious that the higher wind speeds prevail, and particularly
v
v
between the angles from 270 to 350 . This being considered, the order in the solution will most likely lie along those directions. Mosetti et al. predicted an optimum number of turbines between 15 and 18 for this case. Fig. 10(a) shows the

S.A. Grady et al. / Renewable Energy 30 (2005) 259270

269

Fig. 10. Case (c): optimal congurations(i) Mosetti et al.s study, and (ii) present study.

Table 4
Comparison of solution characteristicsCase (c)

Fitness value
Total power (kW year)
Eciency (%)
Number of turbines

ii

0.00099405
13 460
94.62
15

0.00080314
32 038
86.619
39

optimized conguration obtained by Mosetti et al., and Fig. 10(b) shows the optimized conguration obtained in this study. Table 4 is a comparison of the tness,
total power output, eciency of power output and number of turbines for each
conguration. The tness for the current study is much lower than that of the

Fig. 11. Fitness curve for population size of 600 for Case (c).

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Mosetti et al. conguration. As observed in Case (b), the total power output is
more than double, as is the number of turbines. Again, the increase in the number
of turbines, as in Case (b), eects a reduction in the eciency of power produced in
the system. The huge discrepancy in the amount of power produced, however, in
addition to the reduction in cost per unit of power produced, justies the sacrice
of eciency. Case (c) was run with 600 individuals distributed over 20 subpopulations and allowed of evolve for 1000 generations. Fig. 11 shows the tness evolution over this period.
6. Conclusions
The results of the present study demonstrate that genetic algorithms could accurately predict optimal wind farm congurations. In the simple case of uniform unidirectional wind, heuristic arguments verify the optimal conguration of the
present study, which is at odds with that of Mosetti et al. It is possible that their
work did not run enough individuals for sucient number of generations to
achieve convergence. Although the genetic algorithm is an eective global search
method, it can be computationally expensive for problems with a large number of
independent variables. A problem formulation compliant with a real-coded genetic
algorithm could reduce the number of variables. Current computing resources
allow the extension of the present study to include more realistic wind and wake
models and many more individuals within the population, which will be the subject
of future study.
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