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Energy 58 (2013) 483e493

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Energy
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Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) mesh independency techniques
for a straight blade vertical axis wind turbine
K.M. Almohammadi a, b, *, D.B. Ingham a, L. Ma a, M. Pourkashan a
a
Centre for Computational Fluid Dynamics, Energy Technology and Innovation Initiative (ETTI), University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
b
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Taibah University, Medina, Saudi Arabia

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This paper numerically investigates four methods, namely mesh refinement, General Richardson
Received 5 February 2013 Extrapolation (GRE), Grid Convergence Index (GCI), and the fitting method, in order to obtain a mesh
Received in revised form independent solution for a straight blade vertical axis wind turbine (SB-VAWT) power curve using
31 May 2013
computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The solution is produced by employing the 2D Unsteady Navier
Accepted 2 June 2013
Available online 17 July 2013
eStokes equations (URANS) with two turbulence models (Shear Stress Transport (SST) Transitional and
ReNormalized Groups (RNG) k  3 models). The commonly applied mesh refinement is found to be
computationally expensive and not often practical even for a full 2D model of the turbine. The mesh
Keywords:
Straight blade vertical axis wind turbine
independent power coefficient produced using the General Richardson Extrapolation method is found to
(SB-VAWT) be encouraging. However, the Grid Convergence Index may not be applicable in mesh independency
Darrieus turbines tests due to the oscillatory behaviour of the convergence for the turbine power coefficient. As an
Grid independency alternative, the fitting method shows a good potential for the predicting of the mesh independent power
Computational fluid dynamics modelling coefficient without the necessity to consider a massive number of meshes.
Richardson Extrapolation Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction regions continuously changes direction and this makes the vertical
axis wind turbines a good candidate for harnessing this kind of
Over the past ten years or so there has been an increasingly multidirectional flow of the wind. However, the wind flow speed in
more rapid advances in the applications of the computational fluid urban regions is relatively low and also extremely turbulent, and
dynamics for vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs). This has been this adds an extra complexity to the fluid flow structure [3].
mainly driven by the development of the computational power and The flow around one blade at low speed in the presence of dy-
the complexity of the flow around the turbine which is modelled namic stall has been extensively studied by many researchers using
using this technique. The computational fluid dynamics is based on computational fluid dynamics in both the wind turbine and heli-
the concept of Reynolds averaging of the unsteady NaviereStokes copter community and the general features of the flow has been
equations, widely known as (URANS), which are considered by identified. As the angle of attack increases, an increased adverse
Leishman [1,2] to be the most appropriate method for analyzing pressure is developed over the airfoil surface, thus causing the flow
nonlinear viscous flows providing that a suitable turbulence model separation and reattachment, and this initiates the dynamic stall
is employed. In term of VAWT, this nonlinearity is enhanced by the [4e8] which results in an overshoot in the lift coefficient followed
presence of the dynamic stall phenomenon due to the rapid change by a sudden loss in the lift due to vortex shedding. The failure to
in the angle of attack of the blades during turbine operation. capture the dynamic stall accurately would result in a wrong pre-
Vertical axis wind turbines are known to potentially perform diction of the turbine overall performance. Despite the extensive
better in urban regions when compared to horizontal axis wind experimental [9e17] and modelling [6e8,18] of the dynamic stall,
turbines due to the fact that vertical axis wind turbines do not the dynamic stall is not fully understood [19].
require alignment to the oncoming flow. The wind flow in urban Another flow feature that significantly affects the turbine per-
formance is the laminar transition bubbles which mainly occur due
to the laminar-turbulence transition. These bubbles are formed
* Centre for Computational Fluid Dynamics, Energy Technology and Innovation near the airfoil surface in the micro scale and move towards the
Initiative (ETTI), University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK. Tel.: þ44 (0)113 3435113;
fax: þ44 113 246 7310.
leading edge of the airfoil where they combine and become more
E-mail addresses: ml07kma@leeds.ac.uk, Doctorkmsa@gmail.com apparent [20e25]. The laminar separation bubbles may signifi-
(K.M. Almohammadi). cantly affect the performance prediction if not accurately modelled

0360-5442/$ e see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2013.06.012
484 K.M. Almohammadi et al. / Energy 58 (2013) 483e493

and they could be predicted by employing transitional turbulence vertical axis wind turbine since it has shown encouraging results
models such as the Transition SST (Shear Stress Transport) model compared to the experimental data in several different applica-
[26,27] and the n2  f model. tions [26,27,34].
Capturing the flow features of the wind turbine requires a The mesh independent solution is produced by eliminating the
comprehensive understanding of the physics involved in VAWTs in effect of several factors, such as rounding, iterative, and dis-
order to create a sufficient mesh topology. Achieving a mesh in- cretization errors, and therefore refining the mesh is considered to
dependent solution is an essential step in analyzing the results be a remedy for the reduction of these errors by many researchers.
obtained using computational fluid dynamic techniques. However, It is important to highlight that the agreement of the predicted
there is no specific method in the literature on how to achieve a power coefficient with the experimental results does not neces-
mesh independent solution for VATWs. sarily mean that the solution is mesh independent. Achieving a
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the mesh indepen- mesh independent solution must be produced in the absence of
dence of the predicted power coefficient of a straight blade vertical experimental results. Once the solution is mesh independent then
axis wind turbine (SB-VAWT) by employing four methods, namely it can be compared against the experimental data. However, the
grid refinement, General Richardson Extrapolation (GRE), Grid complexity of the flow regimes and the computational power re-
Convergence Index (GCI), and the fitting method. The analyses are quirements for analyzing the straight axis wind turbine lead re-
validated by the available experimental data from the literature searchers to simplify the analysis of the vertical axis wind turbines
[28,29]. Applying these methods may make the results obtained by by studying one airfoil at different static angles of attack or by
applying the computational fluid dynamics reliable before per- considering an oscillating airfoil for the purpose of understanding
forming experimental investigations, and this is extremely impor- the flow complexity related to this kind of turbines. These as-
tant for the design and optimization of the turbine. sumptions could result in misleading conclusions. For example,
Worasinchai [35] examined four different 2D airfoils at angles of
2. Mesh independent solution for the vertical axis wind incident to the oncoming flow from 0 to 360  in increments of 2 
turbine in order to apply the results to wind turbines. He employed two
meshes, using approximately 27,000 cells and 73,000 cells and his
2.1. Single airfoil analysis did not capture the laminar separation bubble at high
angels of attack on the suction side of the blade. This could be due
The presence of complex flow regimes in the vicinity of a to the non-appropriate turbulence model applied or not employ-
straight blade of the vertical axis wind turbines and the errors ing a sufficient number of points on the blade surface. However,
generated from the computational techniques makes the modelling there is no explanation in his work on whether the solution is
of the turbine a challenging task, especially at low tip speed ratios mesh independent or not but the mesh independent solution
(TSR < 5) which are typically employed in urban regions [16] and problem has been recognized by many researches. Castelli [36]
throughout this paper the term TSR refers to the ratio of the rota- employed four mesh topologies with different resolutions and as
tional speed of the blade to the undisturbed wind. However, the a result he created 40 meshes in order to examine their effect on
computational power and the accuracy of the solution play an the lift and drag coefficients, and this requires enormous compu-
important role in the decision of the selection of the computational tational power if the same process is to be applied for the three
technique, including the suitable turbulence model. blade analysis of wind turbines. In another study, Spentzos [37]
The solution produced using computational fluid dynamics is has compared 2D and 3D dynamic stall analysis for a wind tur-
affected by the physical modelling of the problem and the bine blade. He performed a sensitivity analysis on three meshes for
computational method applied to describe the flow. The unsteady the 3D case, namely 420,000, 1,700,000 and 3,100,000 cells. It is
Reynolds averaging of the NaviereStokes (URANS), with an clear from his work that in order to obtain a mesh independent
appropriate a turbulence model, is devoted to the capture of the solution from the refined meshes, then massive computational
physics of the problem. However, there is no universal turbulence power is required if the same procedure to be applied for the three
model that may be applied for all the computations, and this has blade wind turbine. In cases such as the one studied by Gleize [38],
resulted in different turbulence models which are based on a mesh independent solution may not be achieved when
different physical modelling assumptions. Due to the fact that the employing the finest mesh for which he could obtain a converged
transition from laminar to turbulent flow is present in the straight solution. In his study, he started the 2D analysis for one fixed airfoil
blade vertical axis wind turbine, the most suitable candidate is the with 33,153 points and refined the mesh to 3,456,105 points and he
SST Transitional model. This model is based on the Boussinesq concluded that the mesh independent solution has not yet been
assumption which relates the Reynolds stresses to the mean of the achieved.
velocity gradients [30,31]. This means that the turbulent eddy On oscillating airfoils, Yu [39] has employed a fixed mesh size
viscosity is isotropic and this approximation results in an error of 70,000 elements with 400 points on the airfoil surface, which is
which is commonly ignored [32,33] but it requires a proper quan- relatively low for accurately resolving the dynamic stall which will
tification in wind turbine analysis in order to decide whether this be explained in more detail in Section 2.2. He did not explain
error is relatively small. whether the results obtained are mesh independent. However,
The computational method that is widely employed for solving Wang [7] has employed three meshes for the URANS computa-
the unsteady Reynolds averaging NaviereStokes equations in tions with 80,000, 180,000, 605,000 cells and he concluded that
the computational fluid dynamics is the finite volume method the 605,000 cell results agreed well with the experimental data of
with the central-difference method [30,31]. This method has Lee [40]. He may have agreement with the experimental data but
proven its superiority in many applications providing that the it is not necessarily a mesh independent solution. Another
mesh independent solution is achieved. The mesh independent important investigation of obtaining mesh independent solution
solution is entirely dependent on the mesh employed to capture for the dynamic stall analysis by employing an oscillating airfoil
the fluid flow and also the physical model that is capable to has been performed by Richter [41]. Three meshes are created
describe the physics related to the problem studied. In this paper, with a systematic grid refinement in all directions for the base
it is assumed that the transitional model, the SST Transition mesh and this resulted in a fine mesh size of about 400,000 points
model, is capable of capturing the underlying flow physics of the on which a mesh independent solution is achieved. However, it
K.M. Almohammadi et al. / Energy 58 (2013) 483e493 485

should be noted that this is for only one airfoil and not for a wind explicitly how many cells are employed on the airfoil surface but his
turbine. mesh size of 130,000 cells suggests that the number of cells near
From the above studies, it is clear that mesh independent so- airfoil surface is fixed.
lutions for only one 2D airfoil requires a mesh size of at least about In the cases where a mesh independent solution is satisfactorily
400,000 cells. Therefore, analyzing a three blade wind turbine will obtained for the full 2D model of the wind turbine, it is found that
require a massive number of meshes and therefore a mesh inde- the performance of the turbine is over predicted by up to 75e95%
pendent solution will be computationally very expensive if we are when compared to the experimental data [45,47,49]. Also, the peak
to follow the same procedures of mesh refinement. A possible so- in the power coefficient of the turbine is shifted by about 0.5e1.5 to
lution is to use super computers, or very high performance servers a higher tip speed ratio. A similar behaviour has been found
to perform such calculations. experimentally by Kooiman [29,47] when the struts are aero-
dynamically improved. In the full 2D model of the turbine, the
2.2. Full turbine model (three blades) struts are not present and as a result a higher peak of the turbine
power coefficient with a shifted tip speed ratio is expected if the
In the previous section, it is clear that the predicted power co- modelling is performed accurately and the mesh independent so-
efficient is sensitive to the mesh size and a mesh independent so- lution is obtained. Although extensive research has been performed
lution is not a straight forward task. In some cases, the mesh on obtaining reasonable results compared to experimental data, so
independent study for one airfoil fails to obtain satisfactory far, no single study exists in the literature which adequately covers
convergence. This is due to the complexity of the flow and the a mesh independency study.
sensitivity of the predicted power coefficient, and therefore the
mesh independency study is extremely important in order to 3. Computational scheme
explain the results obtained by employing computational fluid
dynamics. However, the modelling of the full turbine model with 3.1. Computational domain and grid
three blades is more difficult than that of one blade and the mesh
sensitivity may not be practical, especially if the computational All the studies reviewed so far have focused on obtaining results
fluid dynamics is going to be employed as a design tool. The which are in reasonable agreement with the experimental data.
computational power is also another limiting factor for obtaining a However, the results obtained in some of the cases found in the
mesh independent solution. literature may not necessarily be mesh independent. Therefore, it is
Kaminsky [42] created a full 3D model of a vertical axis wind extremely important to apply different techniques in order to obtain
turbine and the mesh is refined up to 6,000,000 cells and yet a a mesh independent solution in the wind turbine community. For
mesh independent solution is not achieved. This indicates that at this reason, a full 2D turbine model is created on the basis of the
some flow conditions, or for some geometrical reasons, a mesh experimental set up by Bravo et al. [28,29]. The turbine consists of
independent solution is a very challenging task. However, Castelli three straight blades of NACA0015 airfoils with 0.4 m as chord length
[43] managed to achieve a mesh independent solution for his full and a curved trailing edge of 0.1c (0.04 m) equally spaced in a radius
model with 5,000,000 cells, whereas Untaroiu [44] obtained a of 3.125c by 120  where the blade heights are 7.5c.
mesh independent solution with 7,900,000 cells. Also, the grid The 2D full model of the turbine is created for use in the com-
refinement study performed by Li [45] resulted in 5,267,600 cells in putations by assembling a circular rotating region in a rectangular
order to obtain a mesh independent solution. Moreover, Rossetti stationary region where the rectangular stationary region is 87.5c
[46] obtained a mesh independent solution with a mesh size of in length and 50c in width, and the circular rotating region has a
8,870,576 nodes. Therefore, it is clear that the mesh independency diameter of 17.5c. Different domain dimensions and circular re-
test is computationally expensive and may not be practical when gions have been investigated by McLaren [56] and this domain size
performing the mesh refinement technique. If the mesh is relatively was found to be sufficiently far from the turbine that it does not
coarse for a full 3D model, namely 1,300,000 cells, as in the case of affect the computations, and therefore this domain has been
Howell [47], the prediction error was about 20% different from the employed for all the computations presented in this paper. For the
experimental data. Even though these studies claim that a mesh rectangular stationary domain, the upstream side of the rectangle is
independent solution has been achieved, the refinement process is set as an inlet boundary condition whereas the downstream side is
not clearly explained. set as a pressure outlet boundary with two wall boundaries to both
Because of these difficulties, many researchers have focused on the sides of the rectangle. The boundary where the rectangular
analyzing the full 2D model of a vertical axis wind turbine and stationary region is connected to the circular rotating region is set
achieving mesh independent solution before considering the full as an interface boundary condition in order to employ the sliding
3D model. McLaren [48] has produced a mesh independent solu- mesh technique (Fig. 1).
tion with a 989 elements on each airfoil and a mesh size of 485,000
nodes. However, a systematic refinement of the mesh from 600,000
to 1,000,000 has been performed by Castelli [49] until a mesh in-
dependent solution is obtained. It is important to highlight that
coarse meshes, of the order of 100,000e300,000, have been
employed by some researchers [50e53]. In these cases, a non-
transitional model has been applied and/or the number of the
cells on the airfoil surface is fixed. This has resulted in a smooth
solution but not necessarily a mesh independent solution and a
further mesh independency analysis is required. A more detailed
mesh independency study has been performed by Maître [54]
where he has systematically employed seven meshes. However,
six of the meshes have exactly the same number of cells on the
blades, and this makes his mesh independent solution not to be Fig. 1. 2D schematic of the computational domain employed for the investigated
necessarily accurate. Similarly, Mohamed [55] did not mention straight blade vertical axis wind turbine.
486 K.M. Almohammadi et al. / Energy 58 (2013) 483e493

Based on the recommendations of Almohammadi [5], quadri- iterative converged solution are performed using the same mesh.
lateral cells are employed for creating the computational domain When the mesh converged solution does not change as the mesh is
where the near blade region is created as a structured mesh and an refined then the mesh independent solution is considered to be
unstructured mesh is used in the regions far from the blade. For a achieved, and this is discussed in more detail in Section 4.
high quality structured mesh near the blade, it is essential to esti- The case investigated in this paper is run at different tip speed
mate the boundary layer thickness and the distance of the first ratios ranging from 0.5 to 5 and the turbulence intensity level and
node from the blade surface that ensures a value of (the relative the turbulent length scale are fixed in all the computations to be
distance of the first node from the surface of the airfoil) of about 1. 0.5% and 0.028 m (0.07c), respectively, whereas the residuals are
Based on the flow Reynolds number (Rec ¼ rcUN/m ¼ 2.83  105) set to 105 for all the variables which has been specified after
with an upwind velocity of 10 m/s and a chord length of 0.4 m it is consecutive investigations that show that this value is sufficiently
estimated that the boundary layer thickness is about 0.752 mm. small.
The actual boundary layer thickness is less than this value since this The mesh is prepared to start the computations by employing a
is based on the upwind wind velocity whereas the local velocity is segregated pressure based solver, known as the SIMPLE algorithm
relatively higher than 10 m/s, and this reduces the boundary layer [62,63], where the pressure field is corrected by enforcing the mass
thickness. On this base, seven meshes have been created to perform conservation in the numerical scheme resulted from the pressure
the mesh independency studies using the SST Transitional model and velocity coupling [64]. The least squares method has been
and five meshes have been created to perform the mesh indepen- employed for calculating the gradients of the transport quantities
dency studies using the ReNormalized Groups (RNG) k  3 model by on the faces of the cell boundaries. All the computations were
employing the grid refinement, General Richardson Extrapolation started by employing a first-order upwind scheme for the spatial
(GRE), Grid Convergence Index (GCI), and the fitting method. and temporal discretization in order to generate a smooth solution,
and then the spatial discretization was set to the second-order
3.2. Turbulence model and simulation accurate upwind scheme. The time step was set to be
8.975979  105 s in order to ensure an accurate temporal dis-
The accuracy and the computational power required to be used cretization and small Courant number [5]. At each time step, the
to analyze the vertical axis wind turbine modelling are highly torque produced by all three blades was computed, and then this
dependent on the selection of the turbulence model. The turbu- value was averaged with the other values produced at the previous
lence models available are mainly based on averaging the transport time steps for one revolution, see Fig. 2.
quantities in the NaviereStokes equations. In a vertical axis wind If the averaged torque after one full rotation does not differ in
turbine, the transition of the flow from laminar to turbulent near each time step by more than 2%, then the solution is considered to
the blade, the flow separation and the reattachment, and the be a mesh converged solution, i.e.
laminar separation bubbles occurrence on the airfoil surface are all
very important factors that need to be considered in the selection of Avraged torque at each time step
Converegnce ¼  0:02
the most appropriate turbulence model. The family of k  3 and Avreaged torque per one revolution
k  u models do not account for the transition of the flow in their (1)
original forms. Durban [57] extended the k  3 model and proposed
the n2  f model which is a four equation model that is known to This is a sensitive measure to the mesh convergence since it
perform well in separated and transitional flows [58,59]. On the requires two full rotations with no change in the torque in order to
other hand, Menter and Langtry [26,27,60] extended the SST k  u decide the mesh convergence. The commercial software applied in
model by incorporating two additional equations, namely the all the computations and the mesh generation are ANSYS FLUENT
intermittency and the momentum thickness, and developed the and GAMBIT, respectively. It is important to highlight that in this
SST Transition model which is also a four equation model. Due to investigation it has been noticed that a mesh size of half million
the computational effort required by the n2  f model, the SST cells requires a computational time of about 24 h on a server of 20
Transitional model is employed for all the computations presented processors in order to achieve the convergence.
in this paper. However, understanding the convergence indepen-
dency study for non-transitional models is attractive due to the 4. Mesh independency test
significantly lower requirements in the time of computations and
the computational effort which may be half compared to the Seven different meshes, as illustrated in Table 1, are created in
transitional models. Therefore, the RNG k  3 model, which was order to examine the mesh independent solution for the studied
developed by Yakhot [61], is also employed in the computations SB-VAWT by employing the SST Transitional model based on pre-
presented in this paper due to its sensitivity to the rapid changes in dicting the power coefficient which is calculated from the obtained
the turbulence quantities that occurs in such flows. This will pro- averaged torque. The meshes are created in the recommended
vide an insight into the mesh independency study when the near tolerance for applying this turbulence model in order to predict the
blade region is approximated by employing the standard wall power coefficient and to estimate the exact power coefficient using
function and in the modelling the flow to the blade surface. four different methods, namely grid systematic refinement, General
Richardson Extrapolation (GRE) method, Grid Convergence Index
3.3. Mesh convergence solution (GCI), and the curve fitting method. To explain the procedures
employed for obtaining a mesh independent solution, the analysis
The first step towards obtaining a mesh independent solution is in Sections 4.1e4.3 are shown at a tip speed ratio of 1.75 and the
to achieve a mesh converged solution and an iterative converged same procedure could be applied for tip speed ratios 0.5e5. For
solution. The former could be obtained when the monitoring var- Section 4.4, the mesh independency study is shown for the tip
iables, in this case the average torque produced by the three blades speed ratios in the range 0.5e5. For the meshes M6, M5, and M4,
of the turbine, stabilizes as the turbine continues rotating. The the structured mesh near the blade is doubled as the mesh is
latter is obtained when the set tolerance in the residuals of the refined and the unstructured mesh size is maintained. Doubling the
computed variables are reached during the computations. It is number of mesh points further is not computationally practical
important to highlight that the mesh converged solution and the even though it may appear to be necessary, therefore M3 has been
K.M. Almohammadi et al. / Energy 58 (2013) 483e493 487

Table 2
Grid size and predicted power coefficient for the RNG k  3 model at TSR 1.75.

Mesh Nodes on Mesh size Estimated power
airfoil surface (cells) coefficient (cpestimated)

M11 600 338,394 0.427
M22 600 222,155 0.392
M33 600 85,000 0.439
M44 600 48,961 0.444
M55 600 23,806 0.471

order to examine whether the oscillatory behaviour is captured by
employing the investigated techniques, namely the mesh refine-
ment and the fitting method.

4.1. Grid resolution

Increasing the grid resolution based on the prior knowledge of
the physics of the problem is the most common procedure in
searching for a mesh independent solution. This approach could be
expensive when considering the case of a full model of SB-VAWTs.
Therefore, analyzing a 2D case is vital in order to estimate the
computational effort required to obtain a mesh independent
solution.
In the case of SB-VAWTs, the region near the airfoils exposed to
the complex flow features, namely separation and dynamic stall,
and therefore increasing the mesh resolution in the regions near
the airfoil is a clear option. The mesh is refined in the grids M7 to
M2 and the predicted power coefficient is increased from 0.218 to
0.371, as seen in Fig. 3(a).

Fig. 2. Mesh convergence for M3 (see Table 1) at a tip speed ratio 1.75 using the SST
Transitional model (the time step is normalized to the maximum time of
computations).

created with 5000 nodes on the airfoil surface. To apply the Grid
Convergence Index, M2 and M1 are systematically refined from M5
by splitting the quadrilateral cells in the whole domain into four
cells, namely M2 ¼ 4  M5 and M1 ¼ 8  M5. Further, M7 has been
created so that there is about 10% of M2 and this, namely 50,000e
500,000 cells, is employed in the mesh fitting method.
The meshes in Table 1 are created to apply the SST Transitional
model. Therefore, to apply the RNG k  3 model, five meshes have
been created and the near wall mesh is carefully generated in order
to apply the standard wall function approach which significantly
reduces the mesh size. These meshes are shown in Table 2. On the
airfoil surface, 600 nodes have been employed and maintained in

Table 1
Grid size and predicted power coefficient for the SST Transitional model at TSR 1.75.

Mesh Nodes on airfoil Mesh Estimated power
surface size (cells) coefficient (cpestimated)

M1 7552 2,168,096 0.340
M2 3776 542,024 0.370
M3 5000 495,926 0.361
M4 3776 235,388 0.321
M5 1888 135,506 0.276
Fig. 3. The power coefficient at tip speed ratio 1.75 for the SST Transitional model for
M6 944 84,843 0.267
(a) all investigated meshes normalized to M1, (b) systematic refinement normalized to
M7 400 52,870 0.218
M1, (c) and for the RNG k  3 model for all investigated meshes normalized to M11.
488 K.M. Almohammadi et al. / Energy 58 (2013) 483e493

It is important to note that the mesh in the regions away from R* > 1 Monotonic divergence
the airfoils is not changed in the meshes M7 to M3. Therefore extra 1 > R* > 0 Monotonic convergence
caution should be taken into account when applying this approach 0 > R* > 1 Oscillatory convergence
since the results obtained may not be reliable. M4 and M2 have R* < 1 Oscillatory divergence
exactly the same near wall cell distribution and the power coeffi-
In order to apply the General Richardson Extrapolation method,
cient is slightly affected by the change in the mesh in the region
the apparent convergence condition has to be monotonic conver-
away from the airfoil, and this accounts for only about 10% to 15%
gence. All the configurations that satisfy this condition of the
difference in the predicted power coefficient. It is clear from Fig. 3
apparent convergence are shown in Table 3. Also, all the negative
that the mesh independency is not satisfactorily achieved by
orders of accuracy obtained are excluded from the calculations
employing the traditional mesh refinement approaches, whether
since these do not compare with the formal order of accuracy.
this refinement is performed in the regions where the flow is
It is clear from Table 3 that the estimation of the power coeffi-
significantly complex, namely near the blades, or by the use of
cient that has an order of accuracy close to, or higher than, 2 are
systematic refinement. The results shows that the power coefficient
0.342 and 0.291. However, the order of the accuracy near 8 is not
may not be always smooth and may in addition be oscillating and
desirable, as will be discussed in more details in Section 5.
very computationally expensive. This oscillation in the power co-
The estimated power coefficients shown in Table 4 are relatively
efficient is also present when the RNG k  3 model is employed,
similar and they are all higher than the estimated power coefficient
seen Fig. 3(c). It is possible that if the predicted power coefficient is
when employing the SST Transitional model and this is mainly due
not near the mesh independent power coefficient, the predicted
to the application of the standard wall function and the low number
power coefficient may, misleadingly, appear to be converging
of points employed on the blade surface. By not including the near
smoothly and only a systematic refinement of the mesh could
wall regions when employing the RNG k  3 model, part of the
detect this oscillation as seen in Fig. 3(b).
physics is not estimated and not modelled, and this causes the RNG
k  3 model over estimates the power coefficient.
4.2. General Richardson Extrapolation method
4.3. Grid Convergence Index (GCI)
The basic principle of the Richardson method relies on using the
convergence and refinement rate to estimate the exact solution
The concept of the Grid Convergence Index (GCI) is derived from
from the expansion series for the errors [65e67]. Implementing the
the General Richardson Extrapolation method and it was proposed
methods results in the following estimation:
by Roache in 1994 [70]. It relates the error produced from sys-
cp1  cp2 tematic grid refinements or coarsening to the error produced when
cpexact ¼ cp1 þ þ H:O:T (2) doubling or halving the grid size (r ¼ 2) using the second-order
rp  1
method (p ¼ 2). Meshes M5, M2, and M1 are systematically
This method requires at least three meshes in order to calculate refined by doubling the grid size wherer12 ¼ r23 ¼ 2. However, the
the order of accuracy (p), see equation (3), and two meshes to es- convergence condition is calculated and found to be 0.319, and as
timate the exact power coefficient where the subscription 1 refers a result the convergence condition is that of oscillatory conver-
to the solution obtained on the fine mesh and 3 to the solution gence. This is possibly due to the unsteadiness, the nonlinearity,
obtained on the coarse mesh in order to obtain a reasonable esti- and the complexity of the flow around the turbine blades. There-
mate of the power coefficient of the turbine. If mesh refinement is fore, an oscillatory convergence method, namely the fitting
not systematic, namelyr12 s r23 (note: r12 refers the refinement method, is considered for predicting the mesh independent solu-
ratio from between mesh 2 and 1 and r23 refers to the refinement tion and this method is discussed in more details in Section 4.4.
ratio between mesh 3 and 2), therefore the order of accuracy (p)
will be governed by the transcendental expression: 4.4. Fitting method
n  cp  o
p p
ln r12old  1 cp 3
cp cp
2
þ r12old The analyses presented in Sections 4.2 and 4.3 are based on the
pnew ¼
2 1
(3) General Richardson Extrapolation method which is only valid when
lnðr12 r32 Þ
the convergence condition is monotonic. When the solution of the
and equation (3) is iteratively solved [68]. predicted power coefficient is oscillating then this condition is
Since the computation for predicting the turbine power coeffi- violated and the assumptions on which the Richardson method is
cient is second-order, then the formal order of accuracy of the based is no longer valid for estimating the error in the solution. Due
truncation error of the results produced by the grid should be two to the complexity of the flow, and the presence of dynamic stall, the
(i.e. p ¼ 2). Solution independency is judged by comparing the solution may exhibit an oscillation. The convergence condition
calculated and the formal order of the accuracy of the truncation
error. Roy [69] suggested that the calculated order of the accuracy
has to be higher than the formal order of the accuracy in order to Table 3
estimate the true numerical solution, and in our case this is the Estimated power coefficient using the General Richardson Extrapolation method for
power coefficient, from the fine mesh. the SST Transitional model.
However, before performing the mesh independency study us- Meshes Calculated R* Estimated power
ing this method, it is necessary to calculate the apparent conver- order of coefficient (cpestimated)
gence condition [68,70,71] as given by the equation: accuracy (p)

M7 M6 M5 7.15 0.184 0.291
cp2  cp1
R* ¼ (4) M7 M4 M3 0.442 0.388 0.397
cp3  cp2 M7 M4 M2 0.274 0.476 0.408
M7 M4 M1 2.41 0.184 0.342
M5 M4 M3 1.3 0.889 0.397
and it is based on the R* value of the convergence conditions which M5 M4 M1 4.38 0.422 0.342
is defined as follows:
K.M. Almohammadi et al. / Energy 58 (2013) 483e493 489

Table 4 (p ¼ 2). It is important to note that as the tip speed ratio increases,
Estimated power coefficient using the General Richardson Extrapolation method for the turbine rotates faster and this increases the tip vortex and the
the RNG k  3 model.
3D effects on the flow and therefore as a result the 2D full model
Meshes Calculated order R* Estimated power produces more error in the predicted power coefficient when
of accuracy (p) coefficient (cpestimated) compared to the results obtained from the full 3D model and the
M55 M44 M33 4.33 0.185 0.432 experiment data.
M55 M44 M11 2.48 0.63 0.424
M55 M33 M11 1.61 0.375 0.423
5. Discussion

The rotation of the turbine, nonlinearity of the dynamic stall,
tested in Sections 4.2 and 4.3 show that in some cases the solution
and the unsteadiness of the flow supports the possibility that the
condition has an oscillatory convergence. In the fitting method, the
flow may exhibit an oscillatory behaviour. The computational po-
Taylor expansion of the discretization error is employed as follows:
wer requirement makes obtaining a mesh independent solution for
the power coefficient difficult using the traditional mesh refine-
cpmesh ¼ cpexact þ ap hp þ apþ1 hpþ1 þ H:O:T (5) ment techniques. The oscillatory behaviour of the power coefficient
appears when the solution is close to the mesh independent power
Two numerical schemes are extracted from equation (5) and
coefficient. This may explain the massive mesh requirement in
employed in the fitting of the predicted power coefficient, namely
order to obtain a satisfactory converged solution for the power
p ¼ 1 and p ¼ 2 for the first-order, equation (6), and the second-
coefficient as discussed in Section 2. However, the systematic mesh
order accurate scheme, equation (7), respectively, namely
refinement shows clear evidence of this oscillation in the power
coefficient as seen in Fig. 3(b).
cpmesh ¼ cpexact þ ah þ a2 h2 (6) If the meshes employed for computing the power coefficient are
relatively coarse and the predicted power coefficient is not near the
true numerical solution, then the solution oscillates towards the
cpmesh ¼ cpexact þ a2 h2 (7)
true numerical solution. In this case, the convergence condition is
First, the power coefficient is evaluated at h where h is [1/mesh evaluated in order to employ the General Richardson Extrapolation
size]2, and then plotted in order to fit a curve that represents the method, as explained in Section 4.2. The values of the predicted
solution convergence. The intersection of the fitted curve of the power coefficient that satisfy 1 < R* < 0 and p > 0 are only consid-
predicted power coefficients is considered to be the exact numer- ered to be valid for predicting the power coefficient. It is stated by
ical power coefficient, and therefore this value is considered to be Roy [69] that the extracted order of accuracy is p þ 1 order accurate,
the mesh independent power coefficient. and therefore the extracted order of accuracy higher than the
It is observed in Fig. 4 that both schemes tend to predict similar formal order of accuracy and close to p þ 1 is desirable. From
numerical power coefficients. The trend of the convergence is Table 3, it can be seen that the predicted power coefficient obtained
similar for the SST Transitional model (1st and 2nd order upwind by employing the SST Transitional model is 0.342 at p values of 2.41
schemes) and the RNG k  3 model. It is of interest to note that the and 4.38 which compares well with the experimental value of 0.34.
nonlinearity of the convergence is not captured when the RNG k  3 An order of the accuracy higher than eight is not permissible
model is employed. This is mainly because of the nonlinearity that [72,73], and therefore the order of accuracy of 7.15 is not reliable. On
is developed in the boundary layer which is approximated here the other hand, the power coefficient predictions using the RNG
using the standard wall function. For the SST Transitional model, k  3 model are very close to each other with a predicted value of
the first-order accurate scheme captures the nonlinearity since it about 0.425 with p values of 1.61, 2.48, and 4.33. This value is
solves the turbulence quantities to the blade wall. However, the relatively high compared to the experimental data and the main
standard error (SE) in the second-order scheme is less than the reason for this is that the approximation of the flow near the blade
standard error in the first-order scheme, and therefore it is using the standard wall function and the low number of cells on the
assumed to be reliable for approximating the fitting of the power airfoil surface. The use of a low number of cells is deliberate in order
coefficient because the formal order of the accuracy is second-order to examine the assumption of the oscillatory power coefficient on

Fig. 4. Curve fitting for the (a) first-order, and (b) second-order accurate schemes at TSR 1.75 for the 1st and 2nd order upwind schemes for the SST Transitional and the RNG k  3
models.
490 K.M. Almohammadi et al. / Energy 58 (2013) 483e493

the coarse meshes. Applying the standard wall function method Transitional model (17.1% compared to the experimental data) are
causes the loss of the near wall flow details, such as the develop- closer by 15% to the experimental value of the power coefficients
ment of the laminar separation bubbles and this is mainly the produced when employing the RNG k  3 model (3.1% compared to
reason for the over estimation of the power coefficient. The sys- the experimental data). At this tip speed ratio, namely 1.75, the 3D
tematic refinement of M5, M2, and M1 are specifically created in effect and the strut aerodynamic losses are expected to be low, and
order to employ the grid convergence method (GCI) which esti- therefore the results produced by employing the SST Transitional
mates the numerical bands with respect to the fine mesh with a model is significantly better compared to the RNG k  3 model.
confidence interval value of about 95%. However, the convergence The first-order and second-order fitting of the power coefficient
condition makes this method inapplicable in this particular case is performed on four meshes for the tip speed ratios investigated as
and also confirms the oscillatory behaviour in the power shown in Fig. 5. It is clear that there is an oscillation in the power
coefficient. coefficient and there is a trend towards a mesh independent so-
The fitting method employed in Section 4.4 shows a great po- lution, and this could possibly be the reason behind the massive
tential to be employed rather than the traditional mesh refinement mesh requirement for obtaining a mesh independent solution.
methods. The computational power required for meshes of the However, by considering the fitting method, this difficulty is
order of 500,000 cells is not expensive and employing the fitting elevated and a satisfactory power coefficient could be obtained by
method saves the computational cost required when using much employing the fitting method on four different resolution meshes.
finer meshes. The results obtained using the 1st order and 2nd order The uncertainty in the fitting method is an important issue and it is
upwind schemes, as well as the results obtained using the RNG k  3 at present under investigation by the authors. This very interesting
model, all share the tendency towards the value of the power co- result could make the study of the full 3D model more feasible and
efficient in the range of 0.36e0.4 when employing the first-order also more reliable for designing experiments and/or optimizing the
and second-order accurate schemes of the Taylor expansion. straight blade vertical axis wind turbine.
Clearly, the fitting method using the second-order accurate scheme The power curve for the turbine performance shown in Fig. 6
is better than the fitting of the first-order scheme which is clearly agrees well with the results found in the literature (see Section
seen from the standard error in Fig. 4. It is important to highlight 2.2) for the full 2D model prediction of the turbine where the power
the power coefficients produced when employing the SST coefficient is over predicted by about 80% at higher tip speed ratios.

Fig. 5. 1st and 2nd order fitting for four meshes at tip speed ratios in the range 0.5e4 for the SST Transitional model for M7, M6, M5 and M2 normalized by M2.
K.M. Almohammadi et al. / Energy 58 (2013) 483e493 491

Fig. 6. The power curve estimated by employing the 1st and 2nd fitting method.

Even though the predicted power curve using the RNG k  3 model convergence, and therefore any oscillatory behaviour towards the
appears to agree well with the experimental data as shown in Fig. 6, mesh independent solution is not detected. An alternative form
important near wall flow physics is not included in the modelling of the General Richardson Extrapolation method, namely the
because of the application of the standard wall function. Also, the Grid Convergence Index (GCI), is employed and because of the
RNG k  3 model has the capability to account for the rotational oscillatory nature of the solution the fitting method is
effects of the flow in the vicinity of the blades and correct the flow considered.
stream lines according to the blade curvature which is not imple- In the fitting method, both the 1st and 2nd order accurate
mented in the SST Transitional model. Thus a further investigation schemes have been employed in order to produce the power curve.
is required in this regard but this is beyond the scope and the aims The 2nd order accurate scheme is found to produce a small stan-
of this paper. However, employing the fitting method would dard error and the power curves obtained by employing the SST
significantly improve the investigation of the full 3D model where Transitional model are consistent with the results obtained for the
obtaining a mesh independent solution is extremely expensive. full 2D model found in the literature.
At low tip speed ratios, namely TSR < 1, it is clear from Fig. 6 that Evaluating these methods for a full 3D model is a very important
the SST Transitional model under predicts the experimental data future research area and it is being investigated by the authors.
for the turbine power coefficient. However, this kind of turbine has
inherently a self-starting problem, as reported by many researchers
Acknowledgements
[44,46], and therefore the power coefficient at low tip speed ratios
is expected to be low and it may be difficult to accurately measure it
Khaled M. Almohammadi would like to express his gratitude to
experimentally. Therefore, the power coefficient predication pro-
Taibah University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for supporting him to
duced by employing the SST Transition model is considered to be
perform his PhD study.
more reasonable compared to the power coefficient produced by
employing the RNG k  3 model.
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R: turbine radius [m]
R*: convergence condition
Nomenclature UN: upstream wind velocity [m/s]
v2: wall normal velocity scale
c: chord length [m] a: constant
cp: power coefficient [Power/0.5rAV3] 3: turbulence dissipation [m2/s2]
cp: extrapolated power coefficient. k: kinetic energy [m2/s2]
f : elliptic relaxation factor l: tip speed ratio (TSR)
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