Modeling and Simulation Software for Renewable Energy Students

Modelling and Simulation are an important part of today’s Engineering industry. They are used not only in designing new products but also for testing the performance of existing machinery/systems.

Modeling and Simulation can be carried out right from the system level to the component level. Its use in Engineering has grown exponentially and has reduced the need for physical testing. Thus Modeling and Simulation has not only reduced the cost of prototyping but also the cut down time the time in bringing the product to the market. This in turn has revolutionized the design process. For example, it now takes as low as 18 months to bring a new model car to the market, a process that two decades ago took about 5 to 7 years. Similar scale advancement has been noticed in the aircraft development industry.

Wind Turbine Stress simulation

Stress Analysis of Wind Turbine blade
image courtesy: Altair

Today modelling and simulation is relied upon by not only aeronautical industry but also petrochemical and even medical sciences.

Therefore, for students looking to make a career in the renewable energy industry, it is important to learn a few tools that would not only enhance their skills but also increase their chances for securing a well-paid job.

Few software that are helpful are as follows:
• MS EXCEL with Visual Basic Application
Student versions of these software are free to use


RETScreen is free software made available by Natural Resources Canada. The software is part of curriculum in many academic institutes that teach energy engineering. It is helpful for both students and consultants who are carrying out feasibility studies on Renewable energy projects.

RETScreen carries large amount of information about the energy performance of numerous renewable energy products. This energy performance of devices can be analysed against the energy resource for a particular a site. It should be noted that the software can also load resource data (wind speed, solar insolation) for any given site. The software also allows the user to input their own parameters for a particular product. Over the years through this software numerous research projects have been completed and several journal articles have been published.

The software can be downloaded form this link.

MS Excel with Visual Basic Application

Ms Excel or any spread sheet software is a powerful tool that is a must learn for every engineering student. The spread sheet software are helpful particularly for handling and calculation of large datasets. Although within excel, there are powerful tools but that help in data analysis but its link with Visual Basic Application (VBA) programming makes it even more flexible and powerful.

For example when working out wind resource assessment, data sets with the hourly data of wind speed for the whole year are used. This means 8760 entries for wind speed alone have to be dealth with aside from data regarding wind direction and turbulence intensity. Therefore spread sheet software in such situation are invaluable tools for reducing the time and effort for the analysis.


Matlab is leading software in modelling and simulation. It is mostly used for system level analysis and is extremely versatile. In simple words it would be appropriate to call it a GUI based programming language.

It is widely used in the industry and academia in multiple disciplines that include engineering, science and economics. Although there are similar software in the industry like Maple and Mathematica, however MATLAB enjoys a popularity that is unmatched.

Students studying Renewable energy can use it for modelling any device as long as the underlying physics is described accurately. Wave resource assessment is fairly complex and MATLAB is an important tool that helps in determining the usable portion of the surging sea water.


ANSYS Fluent is world’s leading CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) software that can handle a variety of fluid flow and thermal analysis. For students of Renewable Energy Technology, Fluent can be used for all applications that require wind tunnel testing. CFD softwares provide a level on insight that cannot be matched in its detail by information from pressure and velocity sensors. For example Fluent can be used on pressure analysis on wind turbine blades. It can also be used to calculate the heat captured by solar water heaters.

Fluent is a tool that incorporates the effect of geometry. It is therefore used for analysing components rather than systems. The learning curve for the software is steep but rewarding. Practitioners of CFD are absorbed quickly in the job market.

Student version of this software is available from ANSYS Student Portal

ANSYS Inc is the biggest simulation engineering company that offers a wide range of solutions from Stress Analysis and Vibration to HF Electromagnetic simulation.

WindFarmer/ WindPrO

Windfarm and WASP software are industrial standard for doing wind resource analysis. Students can obtain copies of these software that are limited in solving capacity but nonetheless offer insight to a software that are used by professionals.

It should be noted that wind speed and direction are not the only factors that govern the output of a windfarm. Local factors such as the nature of the terrain (level field or hilly) and presence of obstacles (trees, pylons buildings) can influence the output strongly.

These software (WINDPRO and Windfarmer) have the ability to analyse the wind flow incorporating the topology and terrain of the site where the turbines have to be installed.

Windfarmer can be obtained from this link.

There are many more modeling and simulation software for Renewable Energy Technology. A lot of them are specific to a particular technology. The software mentioned above are general purpose and can be used with any Renewable technology. Also worth mentioning here is the Autodesk Multiphysics suite of software which are also available free to registered students and provide a powerful and diverse range of analysis capability. Autodesk is renowned for their flagship Engineering software AutoCAD.

The  Autodesk suite of software can be downloaded from here.

The student version of ANSYS-Fluent is node limited. That means it only allows small scale projects.  There is an alternate solution that can be helpful for students looking to solve larger node count. Open Foam CFD software is a powerful tool that is open source and is available for both Linux and Windows platforms. It can be downloadedfrom this link.


  1.' Dr. NR Mantena December 5, 2015
    •' Haroon December 7, 2015
  2.' ashido March 10, 2017

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