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Journal of Environmental Science and Engineering, 5 (2011) 1175-1182

Aerodynamic Performances of Wind Turbine Airfoils Using a Panel Method

M.M. Oueslati1, A.W. Dahmouni1, M. Ben Salah2, F. Askri3, C. Kerkeni1 and S. Ben Nasrallah3
1. Laboratory of Wind Energy Management and Waste Energy Recovery, Research and Technology Center of Energy, Hammam Lif 2050, Tunisia 2. Laboratory of Thermal Process, Research and Technology Center of Energy, Hammam Lif 2050, Tunisia 3. Laboratory of Studies of Thermal and Energy Systems, National Engineering School of Monastir, Monastir 5019, Tunisia Received: January 13, 2011 / Accepted: May 6, 2011 / Published: September 20, 2011. Abstract: One of the key features of Laplaces Equation is the property that allows the equation governing the flow field to be converted from a 3D problem throughout the field to a 2D problem for finding the potential on the surface. The solution is then found using this property by distributing singularities of unknown strength over discretized portions of the surface: panels. Hence the flow field solution is found by representing the surface by a number of panels, and solving a linear set of algebraic equations to determine the unknown strengths of the singularities. In this paper a Hess-Smith Panel Method is then used to examine the aerodynamics of NACA 4412 and NACA 23015 wind turbine airfoils. The lift coefficient and the pressure distribution are predicted and compared with experimental result for low Reynolds number. Results show a good agreement with experimental data. Key words: Panel method, wind turbine airfoils, incompressible potential flow, pressure distribution.

1. Introduction
Knowledge of wind power technology has increased over the years. Lanchester and Betz were the first to predict the maximum power output of an ideal wind turbine. The major break-through was achieved by Glauert who formulated the Blade Element Momentum (BEM) method in 1935 [1]. Almost design codes of today are still based on the Blade Element Momentum method. However, this method needs knowledge of the blade aerodynamic which depends on the airfoil nature and his intrinsic characteristic. Therefore, the aerodynamic research is today shifting toward a more fundamental approach since the basic aerodynamic mechanisms are not fully understood and the importance of accurate design
A.W. Dahmouni, Ph.D., research fields: fluid mechanics, aerodynamic, wind turbine. E-mail: Corresponding author: M.M. Oueslati, Ph.D., research fields: fluid mechanics, aerodynamic, wind turbine. E-mail:

models increases as the turbines are becoming larger. To evaluate wind turbine performance its necessary to study on airfoil aerodynamic characteristic such as pressure distribution, moment coefficients, lift, and drag forces which must required an expensive process of testing in a wind tunnel. To minimize the cost of experiments, many researchers have used theoretical method to predict airfoil performances such as the panel method. This method provides an elegant methodology for solving a class of flows past arbitrarily shaped bodies in both two and three dimensions. Panel methods were initially developed as lower order methods for incompressible and subsonic flows. The first successful panel method for supersonic flow became available in the mid-1960s developed by Woodward-Carmichael. Hess and Smith developed together the Hess-Smith code in 1962 based on flat constant source Panels. Woodward-Carmichael has used into the series of computer programs known as


Aerodynamic Performances of Wind Turbine Airfoils Using a Panel Method

USSAERO in 1973. Many other numerical programs such as SOUSSA, PAN AIR, VSAERO and QUADPAN are developed with different boundary condition configurations, and different numerical techniques of resolution [2]. In the recently work, this method was used to predict wind turbine performance. This method was used to predict performance of the NACA 63(2)215 and the FFA-W3-241 airfoils [3]. The results show a good agreement with experimental data. The method has used also to calculate the unsteady loading and radiate noise from airfoils in incompressible turbulent flow [4]. This method is used also in the design of wind turbine blades in order to increase the energy produced by the aero-generators. A related method has used that imposes circulation instead of the blade load [5]. The current design method imposes indirectly the circulation by prescribing the pressure difference between both sides of the blades and hence the lift. Furthermore, the method has used in the direct analysis of fast panel method for blade cascades [6]. The approach starts by assuming an initial geometry and calculates the flow field caused by it. The differences between the calculated flow field and the desired one are used to modify the original geometry. In the following, the authors will present the theoretical Hess and Smith Panel method with constant source strength and comparison of the theoretical result with these obtained by experiment of the lift coefficient and the pressure distribution over the NACA 4412, and the NACA 23015 most airfoils types used in wind turbine.

The body geometry is represented in terms of smaller subunits called panels, hence the name panel method. Each panel is constructed to have some kind of singularity distribution. The singularities used can be sources, doublets, or vortices. Depending on the accuracy, computational speed and other factors one can use constant, linear, parabolic, or even higher orders of distribution of the singularity on each panel. The number of panels that represent the body can also be varied. The actual singularity distribution is initially unknown, but by enforcing the boundary conditions on the body, it is possible to solve for them. The boundary conditions can be represented in terms of the velocity field, called the Neumann condition, or in terms of the potential inside the body, called the Dirichlet condition. The formulation of the panel method consists in the resolution of Laplaces equation Eq. (1) through the superposition of simpler solutions of elementary flows distributed throughout the body. This characteristic makes the method fast, because it is not necessary the discretization of all flow domains. The Laplace equation is written as:

2 2 + =0 x 2 y 2
The total potential can be written as follow:


the total potential function, the potential of free stream, S the source distribution, and

= + S + V


2. Theoretical Method
The basic idea of the Panel method is to: y Discretize the body in terms of a singularity distribution on the body surface; y Satisfy the necessary boundary conditions; y Find the resulting distribution of singularity on the surface thereby obtain fluid dynamic properties of the flow.

V the vortex distribution.

These last two distributions have potentially locally varying strengths q (s) and (s), where s is an arc-length coordinates which spans the complete surface of the airfoil in any way you want. The potentials created by the distribution of sources/sinks and vortices are given by:

q(s) = ln r ds 2


Aerodynamic Performances of Wind Turbine Airfoils Using a Panel Method

(s) = ds 2



where the various quantities are defined in the Fig. 1. The total potential can be written as:

uniform onset flow = V x cos + V y sin

(s) q ( s ) ln r ds 1 2 2 424 3 123 q is the 2D this is a vortex singularity of strength (s) source strength

Fig. 1 Airfoil analysis nomenclature for panel methods.

Hess and Smith made the following valid simplification: Take the vortex strength to be constant over the whole airfoil and use the Kutta condition to fix its value, while allowing the source strength to vary from panel to panel so that, together with the constant vortex distribution, the flow tangency boundary condition is satisfied everywhere. Fig. 2 illustrates the representation of a smooth surface by a series of line segments. The numbering system starts at the lower surface trailing edge and proceeds forward, around the leading surface and aft to the upper surface trailing edge. N+1 points define N panels. The authors can discretize Eq. (5) in the following way:

Fig. 2 Representation of a smooth air foil with straight line segments.

u i = V cos + q j u sij + u vij

j =1 j =1

Where, qi and are the singularity strengths, and the usij, vsij, uvij, and vvij are the influence coefficients. To find usij, vsij, uvij, and vvij the authors need to work in a local panel coordinate system x*, y* which leads to a straightforward means of integrating source and vortex distributions along a straight line segment. In general, if the authors locate the sources along the x-axis at a point x = t, and integrate over a length l, the velocities induced by the source distributions are obtained from:

vi = V sin + q j v sij + vvij

j =1 j =1


= V ( x cos + y sin ) +

q(s) ln r dS (6) 2 j =1 panel j 2


With q (s) taken to be constant on each panel, allowing us to write q (s) = qi, i = 1, ...N. The flow tangency boundary condition is given by V n = 0 , and is written using the relations given here as:

( uii + vi j) ( sinii + cosi j) = 0

us =

The velocity components at any point i are given by contributions from the velocities induced by the source and vortex distributions over each panel. The mathematical statement is:

q(t ) x t dt 2 ( x t )2 + y 2 t =l q (t ) y vs = dt t = 0 2 ( x t ) 2 + y 2
t =l t =0


To obtain the influence coefficients, write down this equation in the ( )* coordinate system, with q (t) = 1 (unit source strength):


Aerodynamic Performances of Wind Turbine Airfoils Using a Panel Method

* us = ij

1 2 1 2


0 lj

xi* t dt ( xi* t ) 2 + y i*2 y i* dt ( xi* t ) 2 + y i*2

y* x*, y * i i


* vs = ij


ri,j +1 ij

These integrals can be found (from tables) in closed form:

0 j+1

* sij

2 1 2 xi* t ) + y i*2 = ln ( 2

1 t =l j



Fig. 3 Relations between the point x*, y* and a panel.


* vs ij

y* 1 = tan 1 * i 2 xi t t = 0

t =l j


A q
j =1 ij

+ Ai , N +1 = bi

i = 1,...N


To interpret these expressions, examine Fig. 3. The notation adopted and illustrated in the sketch makes it easy to translate the results back to global coordinates. Note that the formulas for the integrals given in Eq. (14) can be interpreted as a radius and an angle. Substituting the limits into the expressions and evaluating results in the final formulas for the influence coefficients due to the sources:
* us = ij

Which are solved for the unknown source and vortex strengths. After manipulation and substituting equations the authors obtain the final result as:

Aij = Ai, N +1 =

ri, j +1 1 1 + cos (i j ) ij sin(i j )ln r 2 2 i , j ri, j +1 1 N (15) sin(i j )ij cos(i j )ln r 2 j =1 i, j

bi = V sin(i )
The remaining relation is found from the Kutta condition. This condition states that the flow must leave the trailing edge smoothly. In practice this implies that at the trailing edge the pressures on the upper and lower surface are equal. Here the authors satisfy the Kutta condition approximately by equating velocity components tangential to the panels adjacent to the trailing edge on the upper and lower surface as illustrated in Fig. 4. Equating the magnitude of the tangential velocities on the upper and lower surface:

1 ri , j +1 ln r 2 ij * = l 0 = ij vs ij 2 2


Here, rij is the distance from the jth node to the point i, which is taken to be the control point location of the ith panel. The angle is the angle subtended at the middle of the ith panel by the jth panel. Using the same analysis used for source singularities for vortex singularities the equivalent vortex distribution results can be obtained. Summing over the panel with vortex strength of unity the authors get the formulas for the influence coefficients due to the vortex distribution:
* uv =+ ij

ut1 = utN
This is expanded to obtain the final relation:


ij yi* 1 lj dt = * 2 *2 2 0 (xi t) + yi 2

x* t 1 lj 1 ri, j+1 v = * i 2 *2 dt = ln 2 0 (xi t) + yi 2 r ij

* vij

Then the authors obtain a system of equations of the form:

Fig. 4 Trailing edge panel nomenclature.

Aerodynamic Performances of Wind Turbine Airfoils Using a Panel Method


u1 cos1 + v1 sin 1 = uN cos N + vN sin N (17)

To complete the system of N + 1equations, the authors use the Kutta condition and substitute into this expression the formulas for the velocities due to the free stream and singularities given above. In this case they are written as:

r r 1, j+1 +sin(N j ) ln N, j+1 1 N sin(1 j ) ln ri, j rN, j (22) AN+1,N+1 = 2 j=1 + + cos( ) cos( ) j 1, j N j N, j 1

bN +1 = V cos(1 ) V cos( N ) (23)

The coefficients derived above provide the required coefficients to solve a system of linear algebraic equations for the N+1 unknowns, qi, i = 1,...,N :

u1 = V cos + q j us1 j + uv1 j

j =1 j =1

v1 = V sin + q j vs1 j + vv1 j

j =1 N j =1 N

A q
j =1 ij

+ Ai , N +1 = bi q j + AN +1, N +1 = bN +1

i = 1,...N

u N = V cos + q j usNj + uvNj

j =1 j =1


j =1

N +1, j

vN = V sin + q j vsNj + vvNj

j =1 j =1

Substituting into the Kutta condition equation the authors obtain:

N N V cos + q j us1 j + uv1 j cos1 j =1 j =1 N N + V sin + q j vs1 j + vv1 j sin 1 j =1 j =1 N N + V cos + q j usNj + uvNj cosN j =1 j =1

To determine the pressure distribution over the airfoil the authors must calculate the surface pressure coefficient Cp. At each control point, the authors substitute v.n = 0 and find ut the tangential velocity by:
uti = ui cos i + vi sin i
N N = V cos + usij q j + uvij cos i j =1 j =1 N N + V sin + vsij q j + vvij sin i j =1 j =1



N N + V sin + q j vsNj + vvNj sin N = 0 j =1 j =1

Using the ( )* values of the influence coefficients, and some trigonometric identities, the authors obtain the final result:
N ri, j+1 q uti =cos(i )V + i sin(i j )ij cos(i j )ln r j=1 2 i, j

Then the authors manipulate this expression into the form:

j =1

N +1, j

q j + AN +1, N +1 = bN +1


which is the N + 1st equation which completes the system for the N + 1 unknowns. The final equations associated with the Kutta condition are:
sin(1 j )1, j +sin(N j )N, j 1 AN+1, j = r rN, j+1 (21) 1, j+1 2 cos(1 j )ln cos(N j )ln r r 1, j N, j

ri, j+1 N +cos(i j )ij sin(i j )ln r 2 j=1 i, j


The surface pressure coefficient can be found from:

C Pi ut = 1 i V


3. Results and Discussion

In this section ,the authors will present some result obtained by the developed code over the NACA 4412, and NACA 23015 (Fig. 5). To examine the code the


Aerodynamic Performances of Wind Turbine Airfoils Using a Panel Method

authors will check the sensitivity of the solution to the number of panels by comparing force results and pressure distributions with increasing numbers of panels. Figs. 6 and 7 represent the change of lift with the number of panels. They show that the lift becoming

Fig. 5 (a) NACA 4412; (b) NACA 23015.

constant as the number of panels increase, and it indicates that 80-100 panels (40 upper, 40 lower for example) should be enough panels. The sensitivity of the pressure distributions to changes in panel density has been also investigated. Fig. 8 shows the pressure distribution over the NACA 4412 for 4 of incidence angle with 20 panels. Its clear that more panels are required to define the details of the pressure distribution. The stagnation pressure region on the lower surface of the leading edge is not yet distinct. The expansion peak and trailing edge recovery pressure are also not resolved clearly. Fig. 9 contains a comparison between 20 and 60 panel cases. In this case it appears that the pressure distribution is well defined with 60 panels. This is confirmed in Fig. 10, which demonstrates that it is almost impossible to identify the differences between the 60 and 80 panel cases. After the examination of the convergence of the

Fig. 6 Change of lift with number of panels of the NACA 4412, incidence angle 4.

Fig. 8 Pressure distribution for NACA 4412-4-20 panels

Fig. 7 Change of lift with number of panels of the NACA 23015, incidence angle 4 .

Fig. 9 Pressure distribution for NACA 4412-4 comparing results using 20 and 60 panels.

Aerodynamic Performances of Wind Turbine Airfoils Using a Panel Method


Fig. 10 Pressure distribution for NACA 4412-4 comparing results using 60 and 80 panels.

Fig. 11 Comparison of panel lift predictions with experimental data (Ref. [7]) of NACA 4412).

program and the dependency of the result on the panel number the authors will investigate the agreement with experimental data. Figs. 11 and 12 compare the lift coefficients from the inviscid solutions obtained from panel with experimental data obtained from Refs. [7, 8]. Agreement is good at low angles of attack, where the flow is fully attached. The agreement deteriorates as the angle of attack increases, and viscous effects start to show up as a reduction in lift with increasing angle of attack, until, finally, the airfoil stalls. The inviscid solutions from panel cannot capture this part of the physics. The authors need to compare the pressure distributions predicted with panel to experimental data. Figs. 13 and 14 show comparison of experimental pressure distribution of NACA 4412 with panel predictions at two different angles of attack (-4) and (1.875) for Reynolds number equal to 3,000,000 and 720,000 respectively. In general there are good agreements between predicted and experimental data of pressure distribution. The primary area of disagreement is at the trailing edge. Here viscous effects act to prevent the recovery of the experimental pressure to the levels predicted by the inviscid solution. The disagreement on the lower surface is surprising, and suggests that the angle of attack from the experiment is not precise.

Fig. 12 Comparison of panel lift predictions with experimental data (Ref. [8]) of NACA 23015).

Fig. 13 Comparison of pressure distribution predictions with experimental data (Ref. [9]) of NACA 4412 incidence angle (-4).


Aerodynamic Performances of Wind Turbine Airfoils Using a Panel Method

[1] S. Ivanell, Numerical computations of wind turbine wakes, Elforsk Report, 2009. [2] L.L. Erickson, Panel methodsAn introduction: Technical, Report No. 2995, NASA, 1990. [3] B. Kamoun, D. Afungchui, A. Chauvin, A wind turbine blade profile analysis code based on the singularities method, Journal of Renewable Energy 30 (2005) 339-352 . [4] S.A.L. Glegg, W.J. Devenport, Panel methods for airfoils in turbulent flow, Journal of Sound and Vibration 18 (2010) 3709-3720. [5] B. Kamoun, D. Afungchui, M. Abid, The inverse design of the wind turbine blade sections by the singularities method, Journal of Renewable Energy 31 (2006) 2091-2107. [6] J.C.C. Henriques, F. Marques da Silva, A.I. Estanqueiro, L.M.C. Gato, Desgin of a new urban wind turbine airfoil using a pressure-load inverse method, Journal of Renewable Energy 34 (2009) 2728-2734. [7] I.H. Abbott, A.E. von Doenhoff, Theory of Wing Sections, Dover, New York, 1959. [8] L.A. Tavares de Vargas, P.H.I. Andrade de Oliveira, R.L. U. de Freitas Pinto, M.V. Bortoulus, M. da S. e Souza, Comparison between modern procedures for aerodynamic calculation of subsonic airfoils for application in light aircraft designs, in: Proceedings of COBEM 18th International Congress of Mechanical Engineering, 2005. [9] R.M. Pinkerton, Calculated and measured pressure distributions over the midsapan section of the NACA 4412 airfoil, NACA Report No. 563, 1937, p. 372. [10] J. Stack, W.F. Lindsey, R.E. Littell, The compressibility burble and the effect of compressibility on pressures and forces acting on an airfoil, NACA Report No. 646, 1939, p. 80.

Fig. 14 Comparison of pressure distribution predictions with experimental data (Ref. [10]) of NACA 4412 incidence angle (1.875).

4. Conclusion
The panel method is used to develop a numerical code to predict airfoil performances. A comparison between experimental data and numerical prediction of lift coefficient and pressure distribution over NACA 4412 and NACA 23015 is made. A good agreement in some cases for low Reynolds number is observed. The future work consists to compute the viscous effects on the airfoil and compare results of forces and moment with experimental data to model the aerodynamic stall zone.