You are on page 1of 4


There are a number of approaches that can be taken towards wind turbine
design, and there are many issues that must be considered, the key design
steps include the following:
1. Determine application
2. Review previous experience
3. Select topology
4. Preliminary loads estimate
5. Develop tentative design
6. Predict performance
7. Evaluate design
8. Estimate costs and cost of energy
9. Refine design
10. Build prototype
11. Test prototype
12. Design production machine
1. Determine application
The first step in designing a wind turbine is to determine the application.
Wind turbines for producing bulk power for supply to large utility networks,
for example, will have a different design than will turbines intended for
operation in remote communities.
The application will be a major factor in choosing the size of the turbine,
the type of generator it has, the method of control, and how it is to be
installed and operated. For example, wind turbines for utility power will
tend to be as large as practical. At the present time, such turbines have
power ratings in the range of 500 to 1500 kW, with rotor diameters in the
range of 38 m (125 ft) to 61 m (200 ft). Such machines are often installed in
clusters or wind farms, and may be able to utilize fairly developed
infrastructure for installation, operation and maintenance.
Turbines for use by utility customers, or for use in remote communities,
tend to be smaller, typically in the 10 to 200 kW range. Ease of installation
and maintenance and simplicity in construction are important design
considerations for these turbines.
2. Review previous experience
The next step in the design process should be a review of previous
experience. This review should consider, in particular, wind turbines built
for similar applications. A wide variety of wind turbines have been
conceptualized. Many have been built and tested, at least to some degree.
Lessons learned from those experiences should help guide the designer and
narrow the options.
A general lesson that has been learned from every successful project is

that the turbine must be designed in such a way that operation, maintenance,
and servicing can be done in a safe and straightforward way.
3. Select topology
There are a wide variety of possible overall layouts or topologies for a
wind turbine. Most of these relate to the rotor. The most important choices
are listed below.

Rotor axis orientation: horizontal or vertical

Power control: stall, variable pitch, controllable aerodynamic surfaces and
yaw control
Rotor position: upwind of tower or downwind of tower
Yaw control: driven yaw, free yaw or fixed yaw
Rotor speed: constant or variable
Design tip speed ratio and solidity
Type of hub: rigid, teetering, hinged blades or gimbaled
Number of blades
4. Preliminary loads estimate
Early in the design process it is necessary to make a preliminary estimate of
the loads that the turbine must be able to withstand. These loads will serve as
inputs to the design of the individual components. Estimation of loads at this
stage may involve the use of scaling of loads from turbines of similar design,
rules of thumb, or simple computer analysis tools. These estimates are
improved throughout the design phase as the details of the design are
specified. At this stage it is important to keep in mind all the loads that the
final turbine will need to be able to withstand. This process can be facilitated
by referring to recommended design standards.
5. Develop tentative design
Once the overall layout has been chosen and the loads approximated, a
preliminary design may be developed. The design may be considered to
consist of a number of subsystems. These subsystems, together with some of
their principal components, are listed below.

Rotor (blades, hub, aerodynamic control surfaces)

Drive train (shafts, couplings, gearbox, mechanical brakes, generator)
Nacelle and main frame
Yaw system
Tower, foundation and erection
There are also a number of general considerations, which may apply to the
entire turbine. Some of these include:

Fabrication methods
Ease of maintenance

Other environmental conditions

6. Predict performance
Early in the design process it is also necessary to predict the performance
(power curve) of the turbine. This will be primarily a function of the rotor
design, but will also be affected by the type of generator, efficiency of the
drive train, the method of operation (constant speed or variable speed) and
choices made in the control system design.
7. Evaluate design
The preliminary design must be evaluated for its ability to withstand the
loading the turbine may reasonably be expected to encounter. It goes almost
without saying that the wind turbine must be able to easily withstand any
loads likely to be encountered during normal operation. In addition, the
turbine must be able to withstand extreme loads that may only occur
infrequently, as well as to hold up to cumulative, fatigue-induced damage.
Fatigue damage arises from varying stress levels, which may occur in a
periodic manner proportional to rotor speed, a stochastic (random)
manner, or as result of transient loads.
The categories of loads the wind turbine must withstand, include:

Static loads (not associated with rotation)

Steady loads (associated with rotation, such as centrifugal force)
Cyclic loads (due to wind shear, blade weight, yaw motion)
Impulsive (short duration loads, such as blades passing through tower
Stochastic loads (due to turbulence)
Transient loads (due to starting and stopping)
Resonance induced-loads (due to excitations near the natural frequency of
the structure)
The turbine must be able to withstand these loads under all plausible
conditions, both normal operation and extreme events.
The loads of primary concern are those in the rotor, especially at the
blade roots, but any loads at the rotor also propagate through the rest of the
structure. Therefore, the loading at each component must also be carefully
assessed. Analysis of wind turbine loads and their effects is typically carried
out with the use of computer based analysis codes. In doing so, reference is
normally made to accepted practices or design standards.
8. Estimate costs and cost of energy
An important part of the design process is the estimation of the cost of
energy from the wind turbine. The key factors in the cost of energy are the
cost of the turbine itself and its productivity. It is therefore necessary to be
able to predict the cost of the machine, both in the prototype stage, but most
importantly in production. Wind turbine components are typically a mix of
commercially available items and specially designed and fabricated items.

The commercially available items will typically have prices that will be
lowered only slightly when bought in volume for mass production. Special
items will often be quite expensive in the prototype level, because of the
design work and the effort involved in building just one or a few of the
items. In mass production, however, the price for the component should
drop so as to be close to that of commercial items of similar material,
complexity and size.
9. Refine design
When the preliminary design has been analyzed for its ability to withstand
loads, its performance capability has been predicted, and the eventual cost of
energy has been estimated, it is normal that some areas for refinement will
have been identified. At this point iteration on the design is made. The
revised design is analyzed in a similar manner to the process summarized
above. This design, or perhaps a subsequent one if there is more iteration,
will be used in the construction of a prototype.
10. Build prototype
Once the prototype design has been completed, a prototype should be
constructed. The prototype may be used to verify the assumptions in the
design, test any new concepts, and ensure that the turbine can be fabricated,
installed, and operated as expected. Normally the turbine will be very similar
to the expected production version, although there may be provision for
testing and instrumentation options which the production machine would not
11. Test prototype
After the prototype has been built and installed, it is subjected to a wide
range of field tests. Power is measured and a power curve developed to
verify the performance predictions. Strain gauges are applied to critical
components. Actual loads are measured and compared to the predicted
12. Design production machine
The final step is the design of the production machine. The design of this
machine should be very close to the prototype. It may have some differences,
however. Some of these may be improvements, the need for which was
identified during testing of the prototype. Others may have to do with
lowering the cost for mass production. For example, a weld joint may be
appropriate in the prototype stage, but a casting may be a better choice for
mass production.