PhD Position in Regional Climate Modelling of Wind Resources

Catholic University of Leuven


Offshore wind energy plays a central role in Europe’s transition to a carbon-free energy system. In Europe, numerous offshore wind zones surpass 1GW in capacity, several of which are under construction. At these sizes, wind farms interact with the atmospheric boundary layer and the local meso-scale weather system. Only very recently, the importance of these effects for wind-farm operation have been recognized. For instance for the combined Belgian–Dutch offshore cluster, the effect of wind-farm induced gravity-wave systems on the overall Annual Energy Production can be up to 6% (less production), and up to 30% on hourly production. Two-way interaction with other meso-scale systems, such as land–sea breeze or convection cells may also be important, but this has not yet been investigated to date. These effects are not included in current windfarm planning and forecasting tools. The FREEWIND project aims at developing a planning and forecasting platform that includes mesoscale feedback. A central case study will be centered around Belgian’s offshore wind zones. The platform is made available open-source through a dedicated web interface that allows for online scenario analysis. The FREEWIND project (Development of a Fast REsourcE planning and forecasting platform for the Belgian offshore WIND zones) is financed by the Flemish Energy Transition Fund, which aims to encourage and support energy research and development supporting the transition to a carbon-neutral society. The project team consists of nine researchers and supporting staff. Three PhD students will be recruited at the start of the project and work full time for four years. A data scientist and ICT engineer, will work part time on the project. The project is closely aligned with another funded project on two-way meso–micro coupling for wind farm optimization and design, carried out by two PhD students at KU Leuven. The project is led by Prof. Johan Meyers (Turbulent Flow Simulation and Optimization (TFSO) research group; department of Mechanical Engineering) and Prof. Nicole van Lipzig (Regional Climate Studies (RCS) research group; department of Earth and Environmental Sciences). Within the TFSO and RCS group there is ample of expertise on the modelling tools needed for the FREEWIND project. For this position, Prof. Nicole van Lipzig will be main advisor and Prof. Johan Meyers will be co-advisor.


Wind energy resources are planned to be an important component in the transition to a carbon-neutral society. However, current planning tools do not account for climate variations over time scales of years to decades even though recent estimates for Belgium show an impact on wind resources in the order of 10%. The turbine choice is an important factor in the magnitude of the impact, which indicates that project developers can mitigate potential impact on lifetime resource by their turbine choice. For planning purposes, it is therefore essential to improve lifetime resource estimates including the uncertainty estimates. The PhD addresses this, using climate and mesoscale modelling at high spatial resolutions (3km and 0.3km). You will work with the model CCLM, developed by the Climate Limited-area Modeling-Community of which KU Leuven is a core member. KU Leuven is actively involved in the development of the model and has extensive experience in applying the model for atmospheric and climate research. You will work on dynamical downscaling of existing output from global circulation models for the period present-2050. Moreover, you will develop and apply novel methods to take into account feedbacks between wind farms and the atmosphere on smaller scales than 3 km, using model integrations at a resolution of 0.3 km together with a weather typing approach. The ultimate goal is the generation of an ensemble of 30-year predictions of wind farm yield for the North-Sea region using CCLM. The resulting dataset is made available through the dedicated FREEWIND web portal.


Candidates have a master degree (at the start of their contract) in one of the following or related fields: earth- and environmental sciences (geography, meteorology, atmospheric sciences, bioscience engineering, etc.), fluid mechanics, physics, mathematics, informatics or civil engineering. You should have a good background or interest in programming (Fortran, C/C++, MATLAB, Python, …). Proficiency in English is a requirement. The position adheres to the European policy of balanced ethnicity, age and gender.


The PhD position lasts for the duration of four years, and is carried out at the University of Leuven. During this time, the candidate also takes up a limited amount (approx. 10% of the time) of teaching activities. The remuneration is generous and is in line with the standard KU Leuven rates. It consists of a net monthly salary of about 2000 Euro (in case of dependent children or spouse, the amount can be somewhat higher). Ideal start time is March 1st 2020, but earlier / later starting dates can be negotiated.
In exceptional case, applications for Postdoctoral researcher can be considered.


Please include:
a) an academic CV and a PDF of your diplomas and transcript of course work and grades
b) a statement of research interests and career goals, indicating why you are interested in this position
c) a sample of technical writing, e.g. an abstract of a paper with you as main author, or an abstract of your bachelor or master thesis (max. 1 page)
d) a list of at least two references: names, phone numbers, and email addresses
e) some proof of proficiency in English (e.g. language test results from TOEFL, IELTS, CAE, or CPE)
For more information please contact Prof. dr. Nicole Van Lipzig, tel.: +32 16 32 64 53, mail: or Prof. dr. Johan Meyers, tel.: +32 16 32 25 02, mail:
Applications by email are not considered. If you are interested in more positions, please submit your application for each of them separately. Review of the applications will start immediately until the position is filled. 

Solliciteren voor deze vacature kan tot en met 31/08/2020 via onze
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: August 31, 2020
  • Tags: Aard- en Omgevingswetenschappen

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