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Investigation of Blade Geometry Linearization on Performance of Small Wind


Conference Paper · December 2016


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2 authors:

Shubham Deshmukh Manabendra De

Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology National Aerospace Laboratories


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Development of 10/10 Wind Solar Hybrid System View project

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61st Congress of the Indian Society of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics
11-14 December 2016, Vellore, Chennai

Investigation of Blade Geometry Linearization on Performance of

Small Wind Turbine
Shubham Deshmukh 1*, Manabendra M. De 2
Undergraduate Student, Mechanical Engineering Dept., MNNIT, Allahabad - 211004, India
Scientist, CSMST, CSIR-NAL, Bengaluru - 560017, India
* E mail of corresponding author : shubhamdeshmukh1305@gmail.com

With emphasis on combating climate change at both National as well as Inter-national level,
research on renewable energy is getting a strong impetus. Wind Energy is one of the promising
renewable energy resources, where lot of research is being carried out. Ample amount of research
goes into developing techno-economically superior wind turbine blade shapes. While various blade
optimization paradigms result in blades with non-linear geometry, in order to ease the manufacturing
of wind turbine blades and decrease production costs, a standard industrial practice has been to
linearize the blade geometry. However, this results in performance deterioration of the wind turbine.
The present work is aimed to assess the effect of linearizing the chord distribution on the
performance of a wind turbine blade. Performances of two candidate blade geometries, with non-
linear and linear chord distributions, were studied by two different approaches. The first approach
was based on Blade Element Momentum Theory (BEMT) and the second approach employs
principles of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). In the normal operational envelope of the
considered rotors, BEMT based approach indicated an average dip of about 2.3 % in power & CFD
approach indicated an average dip of about 6.7 % in power.

Wind turbines, which offer a clean and effective way to harness the renewable energy of
wind, have been attracting the attention of researchers. One of the critical components of a wind
turbine is the blade, which converts the kinetic energy available in the wind into useful mechanical
shaft energy. Hence, it is very important to design the blades correctly to optimize the energy yield.
Linearization of chord for easing the manufacturing of turbine blade has been a common
practice in the industry. However, this leads to a deviation in the aerodynamic performance.
Wang et al. [1] demonstrated an increase in power coefficient (Cp) and a reduced blade surface area
using non-linear blade design in a multi-objective optimization through BEMT. Liu et al. [2] adopted
linear radial profiles of blade chord and twist angle on a heuristic basis and optimized the slope of
these two lines based on BEM theory, with both Prandtl tip loss correction and wake consideration.
Velázquez et al. [3] indicated a decrease in production cost by linearization of chord geometry
between 70% and 90% of radial length at the expense of blade performance. A decrease in power
coefficient from 0.49 to 0.36 was observed by Mirhosseini et al. [4] due to linearized chord
distribution. Sugathapala [5] showed a similar decrease from 0.461 to 0.43 in the Cp values of
linearized blade for local manufacturing of small-scale wind turbines. Mendez and Greiner [6]
showed a method to optimize chord and twist distributions in wind turbine blades by using genetic
algorithms and signified that high-quality results were obtained until the stall zone. They suggested
the use of three-dimensional Navier - Stokes equations in a rotating frame to obtain precise solutions.
In light of the above literature, it is quite obvious that while this particular aspect of blade
design is very important, detailed understanding of the flow physics is further needed to evolve the
design process. In view of that, the present work attempts to assess the effect of linearizing the chord
distribution by two different approaches, a BEMT based methodology and a CFD based approach.
Losses in performance, as predicted by CFD, were found to be in line with that reported in the
literature [5]. BEMT based approach under predicted the losses vis-à-vis the CFD approach. This
difference is primarily attributed to the fact that while CFD resolved the flow physics in totality i.e.
by solving the Navier - Stokes equations, BEMT used the averaged approximations for predicting the
performance, i.e. use of Cl and Cd values of an airfoil to compute the forces and without considering
the span wise flow. At the same time, while BEMT approach is computationally inexpensive, CFD
approach is relatively computationally demanding. However, both the approaches clearly demarcated
a decrease in power output of the wind turbine due to chord linearization, with magnified effects at
relatively higher wind speeds. Choice of the approach is governed by the end context i.e. applied
industrial research or time-bound product development.

In this study, a 7.5 m diameter wind turbine blade, designed and developed at CSIR -
National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bengaluru, is considered. It is a part of the Wind-Solar
Hybrid System (WiSH) being developed at CSIR-NAL. Chord distributions of two candidate blades
that have been considered for the study are shown in figure 1. Blade geometries were described at 20
radial stations. A non-linear chord distribution arrived, based on a methodology for maximizing the
Coefficient of power (Cp) at the design Tip Speed Ratio (TSR) and considering the effect of wake
rotations. Linearization was based on a simple two-point scheme, where the linear slope of chord
distribution variation along the span was obtained by joining the tip chord length with the chord
length at the 10th radial station. These two lengths were computed from the previous methodology.

Figure 1 : Chord distribution of two candidate blades

The approaches to study the effect of linearizing the chord distribution of blade onto its
performance are hereby presented.


BEMT methodology is an amalgamation of Blade Element Theory and Momentum Theory. Wind
turbine blade is divided into elemental sections. Based on the local flow conditions and for the local
blade geometry, the lift and drag forces are transformed into forces along in-plane and out-of-plane
directions of the blade. All these elemental forces are then numerically integrated over the blade span
to get the cranking force and thrust force. Cranking force and the operating rotor speed condition is
used to compute the power. Since the entire methodology involves an iteration to find out consistent
axial induction factor and tangential induction factor, an industrial standard commercial code
GH-Bladed, available at CSIR-NAL, was used for analyzing the candidate blade geometries.
Graphical user interface (GUI) of GH-Bladed is shown in figure 2.

Figure 2 : GUI of GH-Bladed

Overall specification of the wind turbine as well as details of the blade geometry are fed into
the software, operating conditions are specified and performance of the rotor is evaluated. Before the
software was used for carrying out the effect of linearization of chord on performance of a wind
turbine, its capabilities were assessed by simulating the performance of a 2.05 m diameter wind
turbine, designed, developed and operational at CSIR-NAL. Comparing of the diurnal variation of
power, as predicted by GH-Bladed, was carried out vis-à-vis the experimentally observed
performance, as captured at CSIR-NAL. Comparisons of the diurnal power generation are presented
in figure 3. Except for few instances, the trend of diurnal power generation, as predicted using GH-
Bladed, is reasonably similar with the experimental observations. This confirms the prediction
capability of GH-Bladed software.
Figure 3: Validation of diurnal power generation results of GH-Bladed with experimental data


The CFD analysis was carried out with Shear-Stress Transport (SST) k-w model, for its ability
to predict adverse pressure gradient boundary layer flow and separation. A rotating reference frame
motion was adopted with periodic boundary condition and coupled pressure-velocity scheme was
chosen with second order spatial discretization for robust computation. An unstructured mesh
containing 4.4 million tetrahedral cells was generated using ANSYS ICEM CFD mesh generation
tool, which was then imported into ANSYS Fluent environment and converted into polyhedral mesh.
The polyhedral mesh was chosen due to its suitability for external aerodynamic analysis [7,8]. The
conversion of tetrahedral mesh to polyhedral mesh gave an added advantage of reduced cell count
from 4.4 million to approximately 1.4 million, reducing the computational time substantially.

Figure 4 : Domain size and boundary description

4.2.1 Validation
Validation studies were carried out with NREL Phase VI turbine blades at 7 m/s and surface
pressure coefficient was plotted against normalized chord length at 30%, 46.7%, 80% and
95% of blade length [9]. The present approach predicts the aerodynamic performance
reasonably well as compared to the experimental data [10], except those zones where there is
a sharp velocity gradient, as is observed at the leading edge on the suction side of the blade.
Some discrepancy is also observed at the trailing edge at 80% and 95% of the blade sections
which is expected due to blunt trailing edge, as a fillet radius of 1mm was used to increase the
mesh quality at the trailing edge.
The surface pressure coefficient has been defined as:
𝑃 − 𝑃0
𝐶𝑝 =
𝜌 (𝑢𝑖 2 + (𝑟𝜔)2 )
where 𝑃0 is the ambient pressure, 𝑢𝑖 is the inlet velocity of wind , 𝑟 is the radius of blade
section and ω is the angular velocity.

r/R = 30% r/R = 46.7%

6 6
k-w SST k-w SST
5 5
Experiment Experiment
4 4

3 3

2 2

1 1

0 0

-1 -1

-2 -2
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
x/c x/c

r/R = 80% r/R = 95%

6 6
k-w SST k-w SST
5 5
Experiment Experiment
4 4

3 3


2 2

1 1

0 0

-1 -1

-2 -2
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
x/c x/c

Figure 5 : Distribution of Pressure Coefficient for NREL Phase VI blade at 7 m/s and 72 rpm
4.2.2 Domain Independency Study
Domain dependency studies were carried out for 7 candidate domains (sizes: n x 2n; 1≤ n ≤7)
in order to ensure that the results of the analysis were independent of domain size. The dimensions of
the domain were chosen as multiples of blade length, as demonstrated in figure 4. A 7x14 domain
size was adopted as the consecutive predicted value of torque indicated a nominal difference of
1.4 % from its last lower domain size.


Torque (N-m)



1x2 2x4 3x6 4x8 5x10 6x12 7x14
Domain size

Figure 6 : Domain dependency study for non-linear blade at 8m/s and 177 rpm

Static Pressure contours on pressure and suction side of both the blades with linear and non-linear
chord distribution are shown in figure 7. Power curve predictions from BEMT & CFD based
approach are shown in figure 8 & 9.

(i) (ii)
Figure 7 : Static Pressure contours on Pressure Side (PS) and Suction Side (SS) of
(i). Non-linear blade and (ii). Linearized blade, at 8m/s and 177 rpm
Figure 8 : Power Curves from BEMT approach Figure 9 : Power Curves from CFD approach

Assessment of the aerodynamic performance of a small scale wind turbine has been
documented in the present paper. Effect of linearization of chord distribution on the power curve of
two candidate blades were studied using BEMT and CFD based methodologies. Power produced by
the blade geometry with linear chord distribution was found to be lower than the actual blade, with
decreased performance at higher relative wind speeds. These losses are met due to geometry
simplification for ease of production of turbine blades. Differences are found to be more pronounced
in CFD results as compared to BEMT data. This is due to the inability of BEMT to resolve the flow
physics as well as non-consideration of the span wise flow. Future scope of research includes
continuing the studies further with CFD based approach for a set of candidate blades with linearized
chord distributions and finding out which candidate would have minimal loss due to geometry
simplification. Continuing the work further, it is envisaged to carry out experimental evaluation on
full scale prototypes and document the findings so as to serve as benchmark cases for the research

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