Carlos Simão Ferreira

A career in wind energy based on a love of aerodynamics

Aerodynamics and renewable energy go hand in hand. This is something that makes Dr. ir. Carlos Simão Ferreira, associate professor in Wind Energy, extremely happy. “I greatly enjoy beautiful aerodynamic designs – there’s a certain art about them. The fact that I can apply my knowledge of aerodynamics in wind energy and spend every working day contributing towards a better world is really fulfilling.”

(photo: Henri Werij)

Simão Ferreira conducts research into wind turbine aerodynamics, with a particular focus on multi-megawatt vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) offshore. “I concentrate on wind turbine design; I try to develop technology that reduces the cost of wind energy. Lower costs should help increase acceptance, enabling wind energy to become an increasingly significant part of the green energy portfolio. Although I would prefer to do the research myself, it’s done indirectly through the doctoral candidates and Master’s students that I supervise. My role involves contributing ideas, motivating and coaching them to become valuable researchers.”

As the co-founder and programme coordinator, Simão Ferreira is closely involved in the European Wind Energy Master (EWEM). “It’s a great combination: Master’s students can share their experiences and acquire knowledge to help create a greener society.” He also enjoys lecturing on Rotor and Wake Aerodynamics. The teaching can be followed online and incorporates all of the examination material. During lectures, there is time for questions and brainstorming. “At the blackboard with a piece of chalk, I have the freedom to pursue the students’ ideas. They experience genuine added value and I gain huge enjoyment from it.” The lectures are popular, with around 80 students at Delft and 16 online, including people from the world of business. Interest in wind turbines is steadily growing.

Love of theory

Simão Ferreira himself has a great love of the theoretical side of fluid dynamics. “I really like simple diagrams, and elegant models. An aerodynamic design can be so beautiful!” This passion began during his childhood years in Portugal, thanks to the film ‘Saturn V Rocket Going to the Moon’. “It was just amazing. I saw a great adventure for humanity and wanted to be a part of it. I was also mad about the TV series by deep-sea diver Jacques Cousteau and the Cosmos documentary series by astronomer Carl Sagan. I simply adored the combination of science, technology and humanity. Then there were the comic books about Blake and Mortimer by Belgian author Edgar Jacobs, with beautiful drawings of aircraft. From my grandfather, who was a stonemason, I received the tools I needed to start building cars and aircraft.” 

Wind energy is the perfect field in which to apply my knowledge of aerodynamics to help create a greener society.

Carlos Simão Ferreira

All of this inspired Simão Ferreira to start studying fluid dynamics at TU Delft, where he completed his Master’s programme in Aerospace Engineering cum laude, followed by two years of business consulting with The Boston Consulting Group. “I’d had enough of the academic world, but found out that it was there that my heart really lies.” He returned to TU Delft, for his PhD in Wind Energy, which was awarded cum laude and Outstanding Young Doctor Award from the European Academy of Wind Energy. “An amazing opportunity to apply my knowledge in making society more sustainable. I am and remain an aerodynamicist in heart and soul, but with a great passion for wind energy.”

The fact that aerodynamics contributes directly to the development of renewable energy also motivates many students. “Young adults often wonder whether what they are doing is of any use. Most people want to do something that’s bigger than themselves. This is why developing green energy appeals to them: it’s a great technological challenge and helps humanity to advance. The task that we face in the next few years as academic lecturers is ensuring we continue to remain in tune with the minds and experiences of the next generations. This will enable us to stay one step ahead and be able to coach them effectively. As for myself, I also wish to continue to work on my personal growth.”

Simão Ferreira likes looking at new developments with an open mind. “At around the age of 18, I came across Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It taught me to look differently at life and the universe. Life and the universe are actually much more interesting than you might initially think. One sentence in particular has remained with me from that book, which is that the art of flying lies in ‘learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss’. For me, that statement illustrates that there are always different ways of looking at things.”

Dr.ir. C.J. (Carlos) Simão Ferreira

Find more information about Wind Energy at the TU Delft

Wind Energy
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