Modelling the aerodynamics of vertical-axis wind turbines.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The current generation of wind turbines that are being deployed around the world features, almost exclusively, a three-bladed rotor with a horizontal-axis configuration. In recent years, however, a resurgence of interest in the vertical-axis wind turbine configuration has been prompted by some of its inherent advantages over horizontal-axis rotors, particularly in flow conditions that are typical of the urban environment.
The accurate modelling of the aerodynamics of vertical-axis wind turbines poses a significant challenge. The cyclic motion of the turbine induces large variations in the angle of attack on the blades during each rotor revolution that result in significant unsteadiness in their aerodynamic loading. In addition, aerodynamic interactions occur between the blades of the turbine and the wake that is generated by the rotor. Interactions between the blades of the turbine and, in particular, tip vortices that were trailed in previous revolutions produce impulsive variations in the blade aerodynamic loading, but these interactions are notoriously difficult to simulate accurately.
This dissertation describes the application of a simulation tool, the Vorticity Transport Model (VTM), to the prediction of the aerodynamic performance of three different vertical-axis wind turbines - one with straight blades, another with curved blades and a third with a helically twisted blade configuration - when their rotors are operated in three different conditions. These operating conditions were chosen to be representative of the flow conditions that a vertical-axis wind turbine is likely to encounter in the urban environment. Results of simulations are shown for each of the three different turbine configurations when the rotor is operated in oblique flow, in other words when the wind vector is non-perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the rotor, and also when subjected to unsteady wind. The performance of the straight-bladed turbine when it is influenced by the wake of another rotor is also discussed. The capability of the VTM to simulate the flow surrounding vertical-axis wind turbines has been enhanced by a dynamic stall model that was implemented in the course of this research in order to account for the effects of large, transient variations of the angle of attack on the aerodynamic loading on the turbine blades.
It is demonstrated that helical blade twist reduces the oscillation of the power coefficient that is an inherent feature of turbines with non-twisted blades. It is also found that the variation in the blade aerodynamic loading that is caused by the continuous variation of the angle of attack on the blades during each revolution is much larger, and thus far more significant, than that which is induced by an unsteady wind or by an interaction with the wake that is produced by another rotor. Furthermore, it is shown that a vertical-axis turbine that is operated in oblique flow can, potentially, produce a higher power coefficient compared to the operation in conditions in which the wind vector is perpendicular to the axis of rotation, when the ratio between the height of the turbine and the radius of the rotor is sufficiently low.
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