Design of Wind Turbine Passive Smart Blades

Alireza Maheri and Askin T. Isikveren
† † ‡

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

This paper demonstrates a wind turbine blade design tool, developed based on the concept of Variable-State Design Parameter. The design code can be utilised to convert ordinary blades of a constant speed horizontal axis wind turbine, with or without pitch control system into passive smart blades. The design objectives are to maximise the rotor power yield and to minimise the maximum blade loading. The design software gives the optimum rotor radius, chord and pretwist distributions, along with a metric indicating the required level of elastic coupling in the smart blade. Keywords: Wind Turbine Design, Adaptive Blade, Smart Blade, Decoupled Design, Engineering Software, Variable-State Design Parameter

1 Introduction
Particular lay-ups and fibre orientations in a structure constructed of fibrous composites produce some elastic coupling in that structure. Rotor blades made of composite materials can therefore be aeroelastically tailored, performing as a smart blade adapting to wind turbine run condition. Implementation of stretch-twist and bend-twist elastic couplings in wind turbine blades can have positive effects on the performance of the blade in several different ways. Employing adaptive blades have recently been identified as a promising means of producing cheaper energy through increasing the operational life of turbines due to blade load alleviation, enhancement of the energy capture capabilities and eliminating or reducing the size and operating cost of pitch control system. The research on the concept of aeroelastic tailoring in wind turbine applications has been carried out mainly in three areas of (i) materials, structural design and manufacturing [1 to 5], (ii) parametric studies of wind turbines with adaptive blades [6 to 9], and (iii) blade topology design [10 to 12]. To bring the concept of adaptive blades into practice, two crucial questions should be answered: (i) how to manufacture a blade with the required amount of bend-twist or stretch-twist elastic coupling implemented in it and (ii) how to design an adaptive blade aerodynamically to make it cost effective. There has been a vast amount of research on manufacturing, material selection and structural design of these blades referencing issues such as the effect of elastic coupling on dynamic aeroelastic behaviour of blades and generating maximum twist with minimum cost and impact on the other aspects. However, to answer the second question, a design tool, capable of performing optimal topology design of adaptive blades is required. The software presented in this paper has been developed to serve as a blade topology design tool for quantification of the benefits that can be achieved by replacing a conventional blade with an adaptive one on an existing wind turbine unit.

2 Design strategy
An adaptive blade has a dynamic topology and therefore seeks a different approach in its design [12]. The presented design tool is based on the decoupled design approach [13] and the concept of variable-state design parameters [14], in which the aero-structure design process is

shell thickness. Also. However. ref . Here. In the first method [15]. etc. the twist distribution of the adaptive blade at the design wind speed must be the same as the pre-twist of the original blade. as presented by Equation 1. the material and structural design parameters are selected such that the requirements of generating the induced twist. Two methods of pre-twist modification have been implemented in the software. 3 Design parameters In order to convert an ordinary blade to an adaptive blade the first design parameter is the level of elastic coupling in the adaptive blade. serves as a measure to the level of elastic coupling in the blade. which serves as a design parameter. In other words. β T . Adopting a decoupled design methodology based on the reduced structural design space. In this design code. which can be determined based on a specified material and structural configuration as explained in Reference [13]. the pre-twist is modified such that the adaptive blade operates optimally at the same operating condition at which the original blade experiences its optimal performance. the tip induced twist at a reference operating condition. the adaptivity nature of the blade allows us to increase or decrease the blade span. it must be assigned to a reference operating condition β ref . This will improve the energy capture capability without increasing the blade loading. and its normalised span-wise distribution β * . If the original blade has been designed optimally. The dependency of the induced twist on the material and structural characteristics of the blade is taken into account by imposing a proper constraint on the structure of the blade in the structural design phase. (β 0 + β |at designspeed )adptiveblade = (β0 )originalblade (1) . the induced twist is treated as an independent aerodynamic design parameter among other design parameters (chord and pre-twist distributions and rotor radius). The pre-twist distribution of the adaptive blade must be therefore different from that of the original blade to insure the optimal aerodynamic performance of the adaptive blade. In the aerodynamic design phase. Adopting this approach. the structural design space can be reduced by deciding some material/structural characteristics of the blade prior to commencing the aerodynamic design [14]. since the adaptivity of the blades allows for optimal design of longer or shorter blades. the rotor radius R should be considered as a design parameter. ply angle. the induced twist can be divided into two parts: the induced twist at the tip of the blade β T . The material and structural configuration of the blade refers to the dimensionless span-wise variations of mechanical properties of the blade material. increasing the blade span does not necessarily cause an improvement in the amount of the power yield without a penalty on the blade loading. when a change in the blade span is accompanied with the effect of elastic coupling in its structure. the reduction of the structural design space takes place by deciding the material and structural configuration of the blade. or reduce the blade loading without a loss on the amount of power yield. In the structural design. In adaptive blades the blade twist is a combination of the pre-twist β 0 and the induced twist β . To ease the fulfilment of the constraint in structural design phase and to avoid situations in which the imposed structural constraint is impossible to be satisfied. The main advantage of a decoupled design approach is a significant reduction in the evaluation time by replacing a FEA-based coupled aero-structure simulation in each aerodynamic objective evaluation by a non-FEA-based simulation [13]. when converting an ordinary blade to an adaptive one. and therefore it has a variable state. the goal of pre-twist modification is to cancel the effect of induced twist at the design wind speed Vd . as planned in the aerodynamic design phase. decreasing the blade span affects the blade loading but with a reduction in the rotor maximum power. To be able to treat the induced twist as a design parameter. Therefore. are met [13].decomposed into two separate aerodynamic and structural design phases. Induced twist depends upon the wind turbine operating condition.

no dramatic modification to the form of the chord distribution is necessary. (for instance see Figures 5 to 7 of Reference [16]). defined as: Pav = ∫ VO VI P(V ) PDF (V )dV (4) in which. serving as n design parameters β 0 .Design wind speed. The chord distribution of the smart blade will be therefore mainly affected by the form of the span-wise distribution of the flap bending moment. since the design process is based on the modification of an ordinary blade. Precision points ( r1* = 0 to rn* = 1 ) n are located along the blade span with equal spacing. PDF (V ) stands for the wind velocity probability density function. The rotor hub radius is also retained unchanged during blade topology modification process. Since the form of the span-wise distribution of the blade internal forces is not a strong function of the aerodynamic load distribution. or equivalently to maximise the average power of the rotor. The pre-twist distribution is defined at precision points. of the wind turbine with original blades has its maximum value. pre-twist is redesigned entirely. ref as follows: β 0. which has known properties. since extending or shortening the rotor radius affects the value of the flap bending. more specifically. the weight of adaptive . The dimensionless span-wise coordinate r * is defined as: r* = r − Rhub R − Rhub (3) Span-wise variation of the blade thickness is mostly affected by the form of the span-wise distribution of the blade internal forces. the flap bending moment as the dominant internal force. respectively. employing an aerodynamic code that accounts for the effect of induced twist. some constrained parameters such as maximum rotor power and maximum blade loading can be determined independent of the blade structural/ material properties. in order to have a control on the maximum stress level or the weight of the blade through the design process. Some other constrained parameters cannot be determined unless the actual values of the material properties and structural characteristics. n . In the software. C P . adptive blade = β 0. the blade chord can be scaled. In this method if the reference wind speed is taken equal to the design wind speed. V ref = V design . However. In the aerodynamic design phase. the scale factor is constant over the blade span except for the inner part of the blade with increasing chord. 4 Objective and constraints The objective of the aerodynamic design is to maximise the energy capture capability. which are not available in the first phase of a decoupled design. ref β * (2) In the second method. original blade − β T . Retaining the aerofoil distribution unchanged. In case of scaling. V is wind velocity. are known. the designer has the option of selecting a Rayleigh or a user defined probability density function. P(V ) is the rotor mechanical power and V I and VO denote cut-in and cut-out velocities. some of these constrained parameters can be estimated without involvement of the actual values.1 to β 0 . Vd . In this software the rotor speed and blade pitch angle can also be treated as design parameters allowing the designer to investigate the possibilities of removing or adding a pitch control system or changing the rotor speed. the new pre-twist can be determined directly from the original pre-twist and β T . is defined as the wind speed at which the power coefficient. the thickness-chord ratio distribution of the smart blade will be the same as that of the original blade. For example. to retain the blade chord at the hub radius and the trend of chord distribution unchanged. However.

can be estimated using that the weight of the original blade. determine aero objective 2. the values of these parameters at which the design candidate operate optimally are also included in . as shown in Figure 1. determine aero constrained parameters 3. In case of defining rotor speed and pitch angle as two other design parameters. structural constrained parameters (including β T at reference operating condition) Structural Design Phase Figure 1: Decoupled aerodynamic and structural design 5 Design space search Design space search is based on a genetic algorithm (GA) as illustrated by Block “2” in Figure 2. structural objective 2. material/structural configuration Simulate wind turbine to 1. ref ) 2. W AB = AAB WOB AOB (5) in which AAB and AOB stand for the plan area of the adaptive and original blades respectively. along with having the planned induced twist at a reference operating condition must be satisfied in the structural phase of the design. aerodynamic design parameters (including β T . Each design candidate is defined by a chromosome containing information on the blade span. W AB . if necessary through feedbacks to the first phase. Aerodynamic Design Phase Select 1. chord and pre-twist distributions as well as its tip induced twist at the reference run condition. estimate some structural constrained parameters Select Material/Structural design parameters Analyse blade structure to determine 1. stiffness and natural frequency neither can be calculated accurately nor can they be estimated in the aerodynamic phase of the design. inter-laminate stresses. through the following equation. These constraints. WOB . Some other constrained parameters such as tip deflection.blade.

the chromosome. therefore. the performance of each design candidate (a blade with new topology) must be analysed over a range of wind speeds [VI . these parameters are treated differently from topology related design parameters. VO ] . Selection of parents for crossover is based on a hybrid method. As explained before. These values are obtained through a direct search by analysing the design candidate over a range of rotor speeds and blade pitch angles. However. a dynamic arithmetic mutation operation is applied on the genes. Start 1 Select material/ structural configuration Load topology of the original blade Generate an initial population of design candidates generation loop: 1 ≤ igen ≤ ngen population loop: 1 ≤ ipop ≤ popsize 3 Evaluate each individual in the population and assign a fitness to it 2 Produce a new population of design candidates Select design candidate with the highest fitness End Figure 2: Design space search Each crossover operation produces two blades. when the . More details on the GA reproduction operations used in this software are given in References [17] and [18]. 6 Objective evaluation To find the average power Pav . in search for the optimal values. In order to achieve a fine tuned solution. In GA reproduction operations. Crossover is geometric single-cut. only those parameters representing the topology of the blade are involved.

Rotor speed: • Constant and known. Applying user defined constraints is realised by calling user defined functions or externally linked applications. Wind turbine utilising the design candidate is then simulated over the range of rotor speeds to find the rotor speed at which the objective Pav is maximised. allows to design an adaptive blade with the same topology and size as the original blade. but unknown. This feature can be used when modification of the unit gear-train is a practical option. The probability density function and the site average wind speed are two input parameters affecting the design. • Variable pitch. 7 Design code features Theoretically. To take the effect of the induced twist on the blade topology into account. Soft constraints in the aerodynamic phase still can be treated as hard constraints in the structural design phase. In the latter case. Each adaptive blade is therefore designed to perform optimally for a specified site. 8 Case studies and conclusion Two wind turbines. maximum flap bending and weight of the blade as well as a set of user defined constraints. Hard constraints are the maximum power and the limit on the aerodynamic loading. The graphical user interface (GUI) of the software allows the designer to define constraints on any combinations of power. Design candidates with violated hard constraints are discarded. but with the effect of elastic coupling in its structure. while design candidates with violated soft constraints are still treated as feasible solutions. or it may have a completely different size and topology. a rotor aerodynamic code based on Blade Element Momentum Theory calculates the wind turbine power and the blade loading at various operating conditions. the normalised induced twist β * is required as an input to the code. A third loop on the pitch angle is also required when the blade is designed for a wind turbine utilising a pitch control system or when the pitch angle is treated as a design parameter. Constraints have been categorised as either soft or hard constraints. have been considered as baselines and four designs have then been carried out. in converting a conventional blade to an adaptive one. any arbitrary set of material/structural properties accompanied by the planned material/structural configuration can be used to feed into WTAB to predict the normalised induced twist. or different in span and/or chord distribution and/or pre-twist distribution. In this case the software predicts the pitch variation at which the blade performs optimally with respect to the specified objective and constraints. but unknown. In the GUI of the software the following options are also available to the designer: Blade pitch: • Constant and known. • Constant. however. therefore. It can be either calculated by employing a mathematical model [16] or predicted by performing a FE-based coupled aerostructure simulation using WTAB [19] simulation code. For Designs (1) to (3) the modelled wind turbine is an approximation of a pitch-control 3-blade V52-850 wind turbine with a rotor radius of 25 m . this depends on how much a blade manufacturer is willing to modify its current production line. a range of variation is assigned to it.rotor speed is selected as a design parameter. applied to the fitness of these solutions. the adaptive blade may be of the same topology and size as the original blade. Having decided the design parameters. with ordinary blades. In practice. In this case the software predicts the optimal value for the blade pitch angle with respect to the specified objective and constraints. Calculated β * for a reference operating condition is valid for all operating conditions [16]. A penalty is. This software. Soft constraints are those from structural characteristics of the blade which are calculated or estimated in the aerodynamic design phase. In this case the software finds the optimal value for the rotor speed with respect to the specified objective and constraints. • Constant. since a reduced structural design space approach has been adopted.

all characteristics of the blade have remained unchanged except for the material of the blade which produces bend-twist elastic coupling in the blade.ref = 11.running at 26 rpm.2m • Elastic coupling: β T .8 degrees towards stall at a wind velocity of 10m/s. namely 9m/s.72 o (TS) at V ref = 10 m / s 4 AWT-27 stall regulated • Power • R = 14. In structural design phase the material should be selected to produce this amount of tip twist at wind velocity of 10m/s. and also yaw and conning angle are assumed to be zero.2m • Elastic coupling: β T .7 m running at 53 rpm has been considered as the baseline.45m Table 1: Design case studies In Design 1.6 o (TS) at V ref = 10 m / s • R = 26.8 o (toward stall) at wind speed of V ref = 10 m / s 1 V52-850 pitch controlled • Power None 2 V52-850 pitch controlled • Power • Rotor radius • Pre-twist • Full pitch control stall regulated • Rotor radius • Pre-twist • Full pitch control Semi activated pitch control • Rotor radius • Pre-twist • Elastic coupling: β T . Figure 3. while in higher site average speeds. More enhancements can be observed at low and moderate site average speeds. The original power curve is the maximum power that theoretically the original wind turbine can produce due to a full pitch control. (a) Power curve (b) Percent increase in power yield .b shows the percent increase in the average power when using adaptive blades. 1000 800 Power (KW) 600 400 200 0 5 10 15 20 Wind Speed (m/s) 25 Original Blade Adaptive Blade Percent Increase in Pav 5 4 3 2 1 0 5 7 Vav (m/s) 9 (a) (b) Figure 3: Design 1.ref = 11. It is assumed that the blades are made of NACA 63-415.ref = 3.6 o (TS) at V ref = 10 m / s 3 V52-850 pitch controlled • Power • Flap bending • R = 26. the improvement becomes less. Figure 3. In Design (4) a 300 KW constant-speed stall regulated AWT-27 wind turbine with a rotor radius of 13.a shows the predicted power produced by wind turbines utilising original and designed blades. According to this figure some improvements in the rotor power can be achieved if the ordinary blades are replaced by adaptive ones. the optimal elastic coupling obtained for the adaptive blade is a tip induced twist of 3. Table 1 summarises these designs. Design Wind turbine Constraints Modifications Designed Adaptive Blade • Elastic coupling: Tip induced twist of β T . Running the code.ref = 5.

a. However.a and 5.The aim of Design 2. this improvement in power yield is accompanied by about 17% increase in the maximum flap bending in the blade. To improve the average power at high site average speeds. Design 3 was carried out for this purpose and the obtained results for the power curve and percent increase in average power are shown in Figure 5. since in this design no constraint on the blade loading has been applied. . Using these aerofoils in the blades prevents the considerable drop in the power curve at high wind velocities. 1000 800 Power (KW) 600 400 200 0 5 10 15 20 Wind Speed (m/s) 25 Original Blade Adaptive Blade Percent Increase in Pav 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 5 7 Vav (m/s) 9 (a) (b) Figure 5: Design 3. Comparing Figures 4. (a) Power curve (b) Percent increase in power yield Figures 6 and 7 present the results of Design 4. (a) Power curve (b) Percent increase in power yield The results of this design study lead one to conclude that using bend-twist adaptive blades in conjunction with a pitch control system has the potential of reducing the actuation time and energy of the pitch control system. is to enhance the average power while eliminating pitch control system. Results show that for low and moderate site average speeds both of the objectives of Design 2 are achievable. the pitch control system of Design 3 needs to be activated only when the wind speed exceeds 13 m/s. Significant improvement in energy capture capability of the unit in sites with lower average wind speeds can be observed. carried out for the same V52-850 wind turbine. Power curves and percent increase in average power are shown in Figure 4. the current aerofoil distribution must be replaced by aerofoils designed especially for the purpose of stall regulation. In this design the pre-twist distribution and the rotor radius are considered as design parameters while the pitch angle is constant.Semi-activated pitch control system. 1000 800 Power (KW) 600 400 200 0 5 10 15 20 Wind Speed (m/s) 25 Original Blade Adaptive Blade 6 Percent Increase in Pav 4 2 0 -2 -4 -6 Vav (m/s) 5 7 9 (a) (b) Figure 4: Design 2-Eliminating pitch control system. to keep the rotor power at its rated value and also to prevent the blade from overloading.

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