Windpark Nijmegen-Betuwe

Can you repair a wind turbine?

Platforms

HTC Vive / Oculus Rift S

Windpark Nijmegen-Betuwe is a private cooperative, owning 4 wind turbines, co-financed by citizens that directly reap the benefits by their lower energy bill. They asked VR Lab to create a VR application that allows a broad audience to learn more about this sustainable way of generating energy.

Wind turbine

VR Lab developed an application in which the user is a wind turbine mechanic. Users enter the wind turbine where they check the control panel, climb up to change a fuse and change the light on the roof of the turbine. This way the audience can get a more in-depth knowledge about the inner workings of wind turbines, without actually having to visit or climb a real one.

We collaborated with dfab for the development of several plugins for Unreal. Al other work, including creative concept, modelling, graphic design, concept design and programming, has been done by VR Lab.

Walk around and explore

We developed the first versions of this application for HTC Vive. However, the complexity of setting up the HTC Vive tracking system meant that the Windpark Nijmegen-Betuwe always required on-site support from VR Lab to setup and run the application. Therefore we adapted the simulation for Oculus Rift S.

This now allows the client to run the application at their various events without any assistance. The Oculus Rift S has proven itself to be a very good system with reliable inside-out tracking which removes the necessity for additional tracking devices.

UI Panel

Hold left mouse button on the 3D model
and drag to rotate.

Challenges

This project had a high level of complexity, as we wanted to connect a detailed reproduction of the interior of a wind turbine with a comfortable ‘gameplay’, so that there would be a logical flow in the experience for the user.

We built and tested different variants in order to find the right solution. Using a plugin developed by dfab, we were able to use exploded views. This feature made it possible for users to replace a component within a wind turbine part (such as the yaw drive) by visually pulling the turbine part apart and changing the faulty component.

Why VR and VR Lab?

Virtual Reality simulations allow visiting places that cannot practically be visited in real life. Likewise it allows simulation of tasks that you cannot easily do in real life. Both elements are key to this solution. Using VR a wind turbine can be visited and the activities give an indication of what it is like to be a wind turbine mechanic. Doing this any other way is either impossible (changing the bulb on top of the turbine) or very impractical, such as actually entering a wind turbine and going up to the gondola.

Windpark Nijmegen-Betuwe was the very first customer of VR Lab. Coming from the same area, we were in touch already. We initially developed a much simpler version that demonstrated the potential of VR to the Windpark. Thus they had no hesitation to ask us again for the further iterations of the project. We visited the Windpark to take a close look at one of the wind turbines in order to create a realistic model for VR.

Now that the energy transition has gained momentum, more and more wind turbines will pop up in our landscape. Energy cooperatives owned by citizens are becoming more common too. However, there is still a lot of protest against having a wind turbine nearby, often fuelled by misconceptions. With this application, developers of wind turbine parks can show everyone the facts about the wind turbine and create more understanding and knowledge about these power generators of the future.