Modeling of Small-Scale Wind Energy Conversion Systems

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Virginia Tech

As wind turbines are increasingly being adopted for meeting growing energy needs, their implementation for personal home use in the near future is imminent. There are very few studies conducted on small-scale turbines in the one to two meter diameter range because the power generated at this scale is currently not sufficient to justify the cost of installation and maintenance. The problem is further complicated by the fact that these turbines are normally mounted at low altitudes and thus there is necessity to have the optimum operating regime in the wind speed range of 3-10 mph (1.34 -- 4.47 m/s). This thesis discusses two methods for increasing the efficiency of horizontal axis small-scale wind energy conversion systems, 1) adding a diffuser to increase the wind speed at the rotor and 2) designing tubercles to enhance the flow characteristics over blades. Further, it was identified during the course of thesis that for simple installation and maintenance in the residential areas vertical axis turbines are advantageous. Thus, the second chapter of this thesis addresses the design of vertical axis turbines with power generation capability suitable for that of a typical US household.

The study of the diffuser augmented wind turbine provides optimum dimensions for achieving high power density that can address the challenges associated with small scale wind energy systems; these challenges are to achieve a lower start-up speed and low wind speed operation. The diffuser design was modeled using commercial computational fluid dynamics code. Two-dimensional modeling using actuator disk theory was used to optimize the diffuser design. A statistical study was then conducted to reduce the computational time by selecting a descriptive set of models to simulate and characterize relevant parameters' effects instead of checking all the possible combinations of input parameters. Individual dimensions were incorporated into JMP® software and randomized to design the experiment. The results of the JMP® analysis are discussed in this paper. Consistent with the literature, a long outlet section with length one to three times the diameter coupled with a sharp angled inlet was found to provide the highest amplification for a wind turbine diffuser.

The second study consisted of analyzing the capabilities of a small-scale vertical axis wind turbine. The turbine consisted of six blades of extruded aluminum NACA 0018 airfoils of 0.08732 m (3.44 in) in chord length. Small-scale wind turbines often operate at Reynolds numbers less than 200,000, and issues in modeling their flow characteristics are discussed throughout this thesis. After finding an appropriate modeling technique, it was found that the vertical axis wind turbine requires more accurate turbulence models to appropriately discover its performance capabilities.

The use of tubercles on aerodynamic blades has been found to delay stall angle and increase the aerodynamic efficiency. Models of 440 mm (17.33 in) blades with and without tubercles were fabricated in Virginia Tech's Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems (CEHMS) laboratory. Comparative analysis using three dimensional models of the blades with and without the tubercles will be required to determine whether the tubercle technology does, in fact, delays the stall. Further computational and experimental testing is necessary, but preliminary results indicate a 2% increase in power coefficient when tubercles are present on the blades.

diffuser, wind, vertical axis, tubercles, small-scale