Wind farm that blend seamlessly with telecoms systems

Iñigo Etayo was born in Estella (Navarre, Spain) 32 years ago and he’s been with ACCIONA Energy for the past six years where he studies the effects that wind farms have on telecommunications systems. His other passion is laying down a beat on a drum kit. His post-graduate work on wind farms and telecoms at Spain’s Public University of Navarre, where Iñigo graduated in Telecommunications Engineering, caught the eye of Spain’s Windpower Business Association and earned him the association’s annual "Eolo" Innovation Award which acknowledges outstanding wind power technology projects in Spain.

Q. Could you sum up what your research is about?
A. The title of the research project is "A study of WTG scattering using mathematical formulation and 3D electromagnetic simulation software"; it looks at a phenomenon known as "scattering", which occurs when the physical surface of the generators is hit by electromagnetic waves. Scattering is the main cause of interference from WTGs on different radio-communications systems and it can also interfere with radar systems, or with TV reception in nearby communities when the generator’s blades rotate.

Q. What are the new measures that you’ve put forward to solve this problem?
A. I’ve presented algorithms and calculation methodologies using finites; this enables you to carry out a very accurate analysis, and in a record time too, of the time lapse variations of scattering produced by rotating WTG blades. On the other hand, there’s also a methodology for the analytical calculation of scattering produced by wind turbines when they are hit head-on by a spherical electromagnetic wave and reception in Fresnel zones, which comes closer to real-life situations that traditional calculations. Finally, we’ve compiled a detailed study of the electromagnetic conduct of the WTG blades using structures made up of composites comprising various dielectric layers; this model is closer to reality than traditional models which consider the blades as a structure made up of a single dielectric or metallic layer.

Q. What are the concrete applications of your research? How do they benefit ACCIONA specifically?
A. The possibility of accurately defining the layout of a new wind farm at the design stage, taking into account electromagnetic impact criteria, holds numerous benefits for wind farm developers: it helps to foster the use of environment-friendly renewable energies, meet legal requirements on materials in a growing number of countries, avoid having planning permission for wind farms turned down in part or totally, obtain savings in the costs arising from implementing palliative infrastructures, and so on. The predictive power of the algorithms and methodologies that have come out of the research work enable ACCIONA Energy to design wind farms that blend seamlessly with telecoms, air navigation and radar systems in the vicinity.

P. Do you have plans to delve deeper into this line of research?
A. There’s still plenty to do in this field. Radio-communications systems evolve very rapidly; up until recently we were working on analogical TV and now we’re focused on digital. Each system is different and calls for specific, tailored research and analysis methodologies. Likewise, WTGs are getting bigger and bigger, and the materials used to manufacture them are evolving at a rate of knots. This highlights the need to continue to carry out intensive and continuous research in this field.

Q. How long have you been involved in renewables and what led you to take an interest?
A. I’ve had a life-long interest; I’ve always been all for anything related to respect for nature and the environment. I began to take an interest in renewables when I joined the Company and became more familiar with their virtues. I found out about the Company from a friend who worked there; he spoke highly of it and emphasized its enormous growth potential and great working environment.

Q. What does working at Acciona mean to you? What makes it stand out from the crowd?
A. Working at ACCIONA is all about being a part of a consolidated company that delivers services in more than 30 countries worldwide and bets firmly on sustainability as the bedrock of its business. And then there’s the great working environment.

Q. What would you say to youngsters to encourage them to get involved in the challenging world of technological research?
A. That’s the job of governments and public administrations-they should be the first to stimulate an interest in technological research among young people. In any event, my own advice to any youngster interested in doing research would be to take no heed of the worn-out cliché that says that "there’s nothing new under the sun". Any kind of technology, good or efficient though it may seem, is open to improvement. And working to achieve that goal can be very satisfying.

P. What do you like to do in your spare time?
R. I enjoy getting together with my friends and family. I’m a keen sportsman too, but what I really like best is playing music. I’ve played electric guitar and the drums for many years now in a band. But quite apart from anything else, I think I’m lucky to be working in something I really enjoy.

Q. Where are you heading professionally?
A. With things being the way they are right now, especially in Spain, it’s difficult to see what’s on the cards for the next few years. All I know is that I’d like to stay in R&D for as long as I can.