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Home » A Day In The Life » Claude Abiven, Senior CFD Engineer

Claude Abiven, Senior CFD Engineer

September 20, 2016


What does your day typically consist of?

I typically start my day by saying hello to the computer cluster that runs our VENTOS CFD code, to fix issues that happened over night or help users with specific requests. During the day I often have to answer multiple requests from engineers that ask me for advice about how to use VENTOS. When I find some time I can concentrate on research and development. Research means changing the code to experiment new ways of doing things, or diving into data and run lots of computations before analysing them and reach conclusions about code performance. Research is typically concluded by a presentation or poster that is presented at a conference. Development means sorting priority items with engineers from the technical team before writing lines of code interacting with the VuWind team; it involves a lot of debugging too!

What do you enjoy most about your role?

It is quite fulfilling to be knowledgeable in an area, to be able to help engineers and customers achieve their goals faster. It feels quite rewarding to create added value to the company. I also quite enjoy representing Natural Power at conferences, to be able to show that we do research that can help move the industry forward. And of course, I quite enjoy programming, dealing with numbers and computers; there are new challenges to overcome every day, and it is always very rewarding when after hours of trial and error you reach the stage when a tool is useable and efficient.

How did you get into the role in the first place?

I wanted to work in renewables in France, within an international environment. Given my knowledge in climate and fluid mechanics I quite naturally bumped into Natural Power France which was a pioneer in the use of computational dynamics for the wind industry. There I met knowledgeable individuals dedicated to renewables who were also great individuals, so I decided it was a great place to work.

What is your degree and / or professional qualification?

Masters in fluid mechanics from Virginia Tech and in climate sciences from MIT

What is the most interesting type of work you have done and why?

Research with our CFD codes has always been very interesting. It involves lots of computer programming (and bug tracking!), hours spent in front of maps and datasets scratching your head and thousands of hours of computations that sometimes do not lead anywhere. And all of this can be summed up by a handful of colourful plots which is quite neat when you have to make it understandable to your boss or to customers. Working on our coupled CFD model made me feel I was at the cutting edge of the industry and that people in the field could benefit from my experience and expertise. It is very rewarding to present such work at conferences.

I also quite enjoyed running thousands of computations for Fred Olsen’s repowering projects. They wanted to understand how small turbines would impact larger turbine performance (and vice-versa) if both were to be run concurrently. No one had ever asked me to do this before, and it felt quite fulfilling to be able to provide an answer.

What is your biggest achievement at work?

I automated our CFD tool VENTOS to make it easy to use for engineers. The tool is now close to what we were dreaming of when I stepped in to Natural Power. Back then we would manually start computations on our colleagues PCs before going back home and try to bring pieces together and make sense of it the following day. Today any engineer can run VENTOS within a few clicks.

Any hidden talents?

I hear my crêpes and chocolate fondant are very tasty. At least that’s what people say when they’re in front of me.

What is your favourite hobby?

I love cuddling my kids, teach them what I understand of the word we live in, and rediscover it myself through their eyes.

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