Fotograf Maiken Kestner

DTU researcher receives 2019 Industrial Researcher Prize

Friday 01 Feb 19
by Tine Naja Berg


David Pisinger
DTU Management
+45 45 25 45 55

The Industrial Researcher Prize

The Industrial Researcher Prize honours the most talented industrial PhD students/industrial postdocs from Innovation Fund Denmark’s talent programme, who have combined a high level of research expertise with a strong business sense and created a commercial impact for a company.

The prize is a personal honorary cash prize of EUR 6,700 (DKK 50,000), which the recipient may use as they see fit.
Read Innovation Fund Denmark’s press release about the Industrial Researcher Prize 2019.

Innovation Fund Denmark’s Industrial Researcher Prize is being awarded to Martina Fischetti this year, who developed mathematical optimization models in her industrial PhD.

Designing an offshore wind farm is a complicated process, but Martina Fischetti has successfully developed a number of models and algorithms that significantly optimize the design phase, and which Vattenfall now uses when they design and build offshore wind farms.

One of the models she developed can be used to calculate the optimum position of wind turbines within a defined area, to minimize the effects of ‘wind shadow’ and thus increase energy production.

She has also developed tools to optimize the cable connections between wind turbines, and to design the pedestals the wind turbines stand on. Both tools reduce resource consumption for the construction of offshore wind farms, resulting in more green energy for the same money.

“Matina’s project is a good example of how operations analysis is becoming an increasingly important tool for optimizing green energy processes. Just a few years ago, it was not a tool that was used very widely in the wind industry. I therefore hope that the Industrial Researcher Prize can help show how operations analyses can contribute to the green transformation,” explains Professor David Pisinger of DTU Management Engineering, who supervised the project and nominated Martina for the award.

Models optimize design phase

Martina’s research has been found to have a major impact in practice, enabling Vattenfall to design a wind farm that increases power generation while reducing costs.

The models, which have been incorporated into software, are an integral part of Vattenfall’s design phase and are used when the company designs new wind farms.

“I have not previously seen these techniques applied to this type of problem. The results we have achieved are remarkable, and better than the traditional systems every time. Another incredibly exciting benefit is the momentum the tool has given the team. It gives us time to experiment and think outside the box. We can try out new ideas and alternative solutions immediately, and quantify the effects of new design choices from the outset. We can also collaborate with suppliers in a completely new way, and drive innovation within a longer term framework,” says Thomas Hjort, Head of System Design in the Offshore Wind Business Unit.

More operations analyses in the future

Martina is currently affiliated with DTU as an associate professor, and employed as a leading engineer in Vattenfall’s department for System Design in Kolding, where she is involved in using and refining her models and various optimization projects.

She passionately shares her knowledge with DTU students and has started a network - AIROyoung - for young researchers in her home country, Italy who are interested in operation analysis.

She is surprised and pleased to have won the award.

“It means a lot to me that my research is helping to address problems in society. So it makes me proud that my models can help make green energy more competitive. I see this award from the Innovation Fund Denmark as great recognition of the fact that I have helped to create something new and useful to society,” says Martina.

She has also found her colleagues to be very supportive:

“The models have been well received, and have encouraged us to think more outside the box and work with more scenarios. This is in part because we can now produce a rough outline for an offshore wind farm in just a few hours, where it previously took several days, but also because we now have a model that allows us to do calculations for several scenarios involving different types of wind turbines, cables and technology,” explains Martina.

The software was used in the design of the Kriegers Flak offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea, which Vattenfall won with a record low price, and Kust Zuid 1+2 in the Netherlands, which looks set to be the first offshore wind farm in the world built without government funding.

Professor David Pisinger sees Martina’s project and the results achieved at Vattenfall as a strong step in the right direction for green energy.

“I hope that operations analysis can continue to help optimize the processes, so that wind farms no longer need any government funding in the future. This will allow wind farms to also become a reality in countries where governments do not subsidize green energy, and this is essential if we are to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals in relation to green energy,” he says.

Operations analysis solves complex problems

Operations analysis is a mathematical approach to optimizing complex systems, and is often used in production and route planning. Operations analysis combines mathematical modelling, heuristic searches and machine learning to guide the right decisions. The methods are a vital tool used in relation to a wide range of practical and scientific problems. Operations analysis has also been applied to the wind industry in recent years, and is expected to be an important tool for enabling green energy to compete on market terms in the future.

This is not the first time DTU has received a prize for operations analysis. In November 2018, researchers at DTU Management Engineering won the prestigious international RAS Problem Solving Competition for predicting delays on the Netherlands state railways, and Christian Vad Karsten received the oldest and most prestigious PhD award in the field of transportation—the TSL Dissertation Prize—in 2016 for his work on optimizing routes for container ships.