Optimizing Windmill Blade Efficiency

Lab Report Abstract
Windmills convert the wind into either mechanical or electrical energy. If the efficiency of a windmill can be increased, then the need for expensive, polluting power generators will be reduced. The tip speed ratio of a windmill blade is directly proportional to the energy output. If the shape of a blade can be altered to increase the tip speed ratio, windmill performance increases. If the blade's surface can be coated to increase the tip speed ratio, windmill performance also increases. This project examined different blade shapes to determine the optimum shape for blades rotating on horizontal axes. Different blade shapes were also tested for blades rotated on a vertical axis. Finally, different surface treatments were tested to determine if surface treatment could enhance blade performance. Other areas were identified for additional research.

Problem Statement
Windmills are actually, in a sense, transducers. They can convert the wind into either mechanical or electrical energy. If the efficiency of the windmill can be increased, then the need for expensive, polluting, power generators will be reduced. As a result, we would be helping the environment and economy at the same time.


A vertical axis is mainly used for torque. Wind Speed This is very important to the productivity of a windmill. The orientation and distance of the wind source will be stationary and shall remain constant in relation to the windmill blades. Variable Control This will be controlled by using the same artificial wind source. Once the optimum blade shape has been determined. The wind turbine only generates power with the wind. the tip-speed ratio will increase resulting in better performance. Surface treatment can affect the blade's performance. Variable Control This will be controlled by using the same constructed model for all measurements. To do this it seems necessary to increase the tip speed ratio. Methodology Introduction The purpose of this project is to increase the efficiency of the windmill. The wind rotates the axis (horizontal or vertical) and causes the shaft on the generator to sweep past the magnetic coils creating an electric current.. 2. a conventional electric fan or hair dryer. Hopefully.g. while others are designed for tip speed ratio. Variables Independent Variables: 1.As the shape of windmill blades becomes more aerodynamically efficient. . Some windmills may be designed for torque. blades of the same shape will be treated with different coatings to determine if performance can be increased. the shape of the blades will positively affect the top speed ratio and/or overall efficiency of the windmill. Type of Windmill This is important because a different brand of windmill may be based on different principles than others. A vertical axis windmill and a horizontal axis windmill are very different and are used for different things. e. and a horizontal is used for speed.

7. the top platform supporting the generator was also constructed of balsa wood. 4. Variable Control The windmill tower was equipped with a MS-50 airplane/car DC motor manufactured in Taiwan. the towers must be identical so as to insure a fair comparison. The higher a windmill is. The entire tower was painted with red enamel spray paint for appearance only. Variable Control The same tower will be used for all measurements. The model constructed was 14 inches tall. Blade Length This is important because the length of the blade is directly proportional to the swept area. 6. at 2. Because of this. Therefore. but they must also be subject to their own weight and the drag of the wind. Towers are important in the construction of the windmill because not only do they have to support the windmill. they may also have more torque.5 inches long and half an inch wide. Larger blades have a greater swept area and thus catch more wind with each revolution. 5. Variable Control The tower was constructed using two reinforced cardboard model rocket fuselages. If a weak tower is subject to these elements. The length and width will remain constant.3. Tower Design Some towers are stronger than others. Tower Height The height of the tower [affects] the windmill immensely. The base of the tower was constructed of balsa wood. Brand of Generator The type of generator is important because the energy efficiency of a generator may vary among different brands. the more productive it will be due to the fact that as the altitude increases so does the wind speed. Type of Generator . then it will surely collapse. Variable Control A single blade pattern will be used to prescribe the general size and shape of the blades.

The type of generator is important because the amount and type of power generated may vary among different types. The same wind source will be used and the blade size will be kept constant. Some generators generate AC while others generate DC. and #4. type and brand. Variable Control The windmill will be the same size. Flat. unmodified blade surface. then the overall productivity of a windmill can be increased. To make them compatible for comparison a transducer must be used. on the same type of tower. #3. Variable Control Only one DC generator was used in the experiment. Wing shape. Both edges rounded like the leading edge of a conventional airplane wing. Shape of Blade This is important because if an optimum blade shape is discovered. Both edges tapered to a thin line. The blade shapes were as follows: #1. #2. with one leading edge rounded with the other edge tapered to a thin line. A drawing of tested blade shapes is provided below: . wasting valuable money and quite possibly time. Experimental Variables: 1.

Statistical Treatment . 13. A tower was created. 5. Surface Treatment This is important because if an optimum surface treatment can be determined.2. horizontal or vertical axes). then the blades would not only be protected from the elements but also be more productive. Steps 8~10 are then repeated as necessary. The windmill was then placed in front of the wind source on a horizontal axis and a vertical axis.e. It is how many times the blades rotate greater than the wind speed. 12. 2.5" blades were cut out of wood from a common pattern. 8. and composition remained constant. on a horizontal axis.. 9. 7. Only the surface coating was altered. the most efficient shape was then replicated and treated with different coatings. 3. The one that generates the most voltage in the same wind speed is obviously more productive. The blades were sanded to achieve a smooth surface. The blades were then tapered at differing shapes. Once blade was not treated. The windmill was assembled. Variable Control The blade shape. The first set of blades was then equipped to the windmill. A windmill prototype was created. The windmill was then equipped with another set of blades of a different design. System of Measurement: Each windmill blade will be attached to a generator. The tip speed ratio is directly proportional to the windmill's productivity. 6. 4. Methods Procedure 1. size. 10.5" x . After testing all blade shapes. Several 2. The blades were tested again. The amount of energy generated was recorded for each blade operation (i. 11. A generator was equipped to the windmill. following the above steps. Dependent Variables: Tip Speed Ratio The tip speed ratio is very important.

7. 2. 4. The width and length were relatively constant. Instruments & Materials 1. windmill tower blades hair dryer generator digital multi meter 30-gauge insulated copper wire light alligator clips solder & flux (used to attach wires to generator and alligator clips to wires) Results . width and thickness. 5. 3. Voltage data was collected using a digital multi meter that would allow for greater accuracy and precision. 8. 9. 6.The size of the blades was measured by length. Eleven sample readings were collected for analysis of optimum blade shapes and twenty-four readings were collected for each coating (or control) for the purpose of analyzing the influence of blade surface treatment.

6 276.3 268.0 #4 180.7 Vertical 269.8 Horizontal 100.3 223.8 288. each shape rotated reasonably well.6 95.3 215.0 93.0 .4 219.3 265.3 245.4 0 0 Average: 0 104.0 #3 148.3 105. However.9 118.0 109.0 133.2 Axis 113.0 134.0 242.8 0 0 105. Some blades did not rotate at all.7 101.The shape of the blade has a great deal of influence on the performance of the windmill.6 284.6 118. Blade Shapes #2 #3 #4 91. Blade shapes appearing to produce more lift and less drag were more efficient.0 302.0 #2 198.2 260.7 244.6 246.7 102.3 189.0 123.3 230. It would appear that the blade shapes producing more drag performed better on a vertical axis.8 Axis 285.3 142.2 227.0 317.7 179.31 0 0 Voltage #1 (mV) 0 Blade Shapes Voltage #1 (mV) 296. when the direction of the wind was changed to reflect the effects on blades oriented on a vertical axis.8 Totals: 0 1147.3 226.6 228. The tip speed ratio increased dramatically as the shape of the blade was modified to become more aerodynamically efficient when the blade was rotated on a horizontal axis. Tables of test results and charts of relative blade shape performance follow.

5 135.5 173.6 301.0 293.2 234.40 Surface treatment results were more surprising.2 145.4 213.5 169.5 207.2 269.0 283.7 209. the positive results of the painted blade in relation to the silicone blade would lead one to consider other research of optimal surface treatments.1 289.7 161. e.45 262.3 287.5 167.249.4 152.9 265.5 156.8 Voltage (mV) #2 156.4 Average: 264.3 309.5 269.4 219.6 301.8 176. The blade that was not treated with any coating appeared to perform the best.5 205.8 223. Teflon® or other treatments.0 205.5 226.9 307.2 223.1 258.47 226.2 226.9 222.9 290.5 229.8 208.8 168. It is possible that the added weight of surface coatings adversely affected blade performance.9 2886.7 167.4 223.1 298.9 220.14 157.2 148.2 2487.8 158.0 Totals: 2909.8 301.8 159.7 Horizontal 275.8 300.5 155. However.0 220.5 308. Results of the surface treatment data collection are provided below: Blade Surface Treatment #1 233.8 299.0 221.0 #3 206.8 166.0 296.3 166.7 290.8 175.8 229.0 292.9 220.g.9 143.0 236.4 217.4 Axis 273.3 167.0 266.4 ..5 1731.0 224.4 225.8 159.0 260.5 212.5 225.8 164.8 132.

Resolution of Hypothesis My hypothesis was correct in that the more aerodynamically efficient the blades are the more productive the windmill will be. light windmill blades.) blade composition. This worked but on fairly small.61 153.2 164.5 226.25 212. In addition to surface coatings.3 293. However. However. First.8 227.5 Average: 285. This has led me to infer that windmills will only serve as an alternate energy source in areas that experience fairly constant and considerably forceful prevailing winds. two other areas emerged as candidates for further research: 1.05 There were some other interesting results. Suggestions This study has helped answer the problem of windmill efficiency. Summary I have discovered the more aerodynamically efficient the blade shape is.7 1685.) blade length and 2. 3. I switched to a hair dryer that is a built-in wind source and combined wind tunnel. The question still remains is: how can we further improve the efficiency of the windmill blade? Research Paper .5 167.285. My first attempt at modeling blades used a wind source from a conventional room fan and a "wind tunnel" created out of tag board.7 Totals: 6854. for now we know what to look for in creating a better windmill. 2.8 2332. the more efficient the windmill will be. Conclusions 1. I originally thought that a surface coating might improve efficiency which was not supported. The fan did not produce enough wind to turn the blades. I didn't realize how much wind force would be required to energize windmill blades. the most efficient shape was the most commonly used shape on windmills already. My hypothesis about surface coatings was also supported.

In most cases the altitude of the rotor is directly proportional to its efficiency.Windmills If the efficiency of a wind turbine is increased. the number of blades on windmills have decreased. during the Twelfth Century. Since its creation. The Persians originally used th wind to irrigate farm land. then more power can be generated thus decreasing the need for expensive power generators that cause pollution. the cooler air is above the valleys and the hot air is above the mountains.000 megawatts. a modern wind turbine should be at least twenty feet above and three hundred feet away from an obstruction. over the years. because of the cooler air flowing down the mountain and being heated by the warmer valley air causing a convection current. such as the British Isles. yet they are ideal for wind generation. man has constantly tried to improve the windmill. Some places.400 megawatts of electricity? (A typical nuclear power plant generates 1. thus creating a convection current in the opposite direction . As a result. have few inhabitants because of high wind speeds. the common people can cut back on their power costs immensely. Since the widespread use of windmills in Europe. They were usually slow and had a low tip speed ratio but were useful for torque. some areas such as the Netherlands have prospered from creating vast wind farms. crush grain and milling. Ever since the Seventh Century people have been utilizing the wind to make their lives easier. however. Different locations have various wind speeds. were not very reliable or energy efficient. Power can be generated and stored by a wind turbine with little or no pollution. Only half the sail rotation was utilized. Past windmill also had to be manually directed into the wind. The wind is literally there for the taking and doesn't cost any money. The first windmills. This would also reduce the cost of power for the common people. Mountains can create mountain breezes at night. though it is even more ideal for it to be thirty feet above and five hundred feet away from any obstruction. The sail design and materials used to create them have also changed over the years. As a matter of fact. Valleys are affected in much the same way. while modern windmills can be automatically turned into the wind. This is probably where the term windmill came from. The whole concept of windmills originated in Persia. The hot air above the mountain rises above the valleys and cools. Most modern windmills have 2~3 blades while past windmills have had 4~8 blades. Did you know that th world's largest wind farm is located in California. and the total wind power generated there exceeds 1. In the daytime.) Some geographic features such as mountains also have an influence upon wind. If the efficiency of the common wind turbine is improved and widespread.

As stated in Bernoulli's Principle. Freon pump. Some of them are: hydraulic pump. air pump. and the classic four-arm windmill. water pump. The horizontal axis windmills have a horizontal rotor much like the classic Dutch four-arm windmill. But above all of these improvements. have a low tip speed ratio and are not very energy efficient compared to the cyclo-turbine. At night. creating lift. as well as they mountains or valleys. We know that for windmills to operate there must be wind. both vertical and horizontal axis. the most important improvement to the windmill was made in 1745 when the fantail was invented. "a fluid will travel from an area of higher pressure to an area of lower pressure. oil pump. like the cyclo-turbine. All of the above windmills have their advantages. churning. are relatively slow moving. sail windmill. This design increases the velocity of the air on top of the blade thus decreasing its density and causing the air on the bottom of the blade to go towards the top . with a curved top. There are many types of windmills. . motor. the time of day also affects the wind. but are much cheaper and money is the great equalizer. spring mill. have many uses. so the air heats up over the ocean and cools over the sand. Some vertical axis windmills have even been equipped with hinged blades to avoid the stresses at high wind speeds. cyclo-turbine. The fantail automatically rotates the sails into the wind. the hotter air is above the same and the cooler air is above the ocean. creating the convection current. In the day." Based upon this principle.the horizontal axis windmills and the vertical axis windmills. Some windmills. The horizontal axis windmills primarily rely on lift from the wind. creating friction. savonis.and creating a valley wind. Darrieus. multi-blade. Many of the sails on windmills have also been replaced with propeller-like airfoils. As you can clearly see. The air heats up over the sand and rises above the ocean and then cools. Some windmills can also stall in the wind to control wind speed. like a brick wall. Vertical axis windmills. The oceans create convection currents.. the cooler air is above the sand and the warmer air is above the ocean. Wind turbine generators have been equipped with gearboxes to control [shaft] speeds. like the sail windmill. to control speed in strong winds. horizontal axis windmill blades have been designed much like the wings of an airplane. such as: the tower mill. The blades are angled on the axis as to utilize the lift in the rotation. "as the velocity of a fluid increases. have been equipped with a vane that senses wind direction and causes the rotor to rotate into the wind. The blades on modern wind turbines are designed for maximum lift and minimal drag. Windmills." It also states. Drag is resistance to the wind. such as the Darrieus (built in 1930) use drag instead of lift. Wind turbines have also been equipped with generators which convert shaft power into electrical power. Some windmills. and can also be used as a centrifugal pump. electric generator. its density decreases. The blades on vertical axis windmills are designed to give resistance to the wind and are as a result pushed by the wind. Windmills have been equipped with air breaks. heat director. sock mill. but how do they work? Actually there are two types of windmills -.. There have been many improvements to the windmill over the years.

A good anemometer would cost around $100. hollow. Another variable of the windmill's efficiency is its swept area. The wind speed is measured by an anemometer. The swept area of a disk-shaped wind wheel is calculated as: Area equals pi times diameter squared divided by four (pi equals 3.) decrease the solidity of the windmill blades? Does temperature affect the solidity of the windmill blades? How does the length of the blade affect the tip speed ratio? Which is better: A high tip speed ratio or large swept area in electricity generation? Can an augmented diffuser and congengator increase the efficiency of a windmill? If these questions are answered. such as oil. Dermot (1978) Harnessing the Wind for Home Energy Washington. toxic by-products or greenhouse gasses. Some towers have guy wire to support them and others don't. Wind energy contributes very little pollution. ten percent of the world's electricity will come from windmills. There are still some questions that have not been answered by my research. The rpm is the revolutions per minute.Most wind turbines start to generate power at 12 miles per hour and shut down at speeds near 60 mph.14). the blades of he windmill will rotate 23 times. Another variable in the productivity of a windmill is the wind speed. or 2 timers pi times radius times rpm over 88 times the wind speed velocity. The tip speed ratio of a windmill is how many times the blades of a windmill turn for every mile an hour the wind speed is. Something to take into consideration about a tower is that it must support the weight of the windmill along with the weight of the tower. such as: Can different materials decrease the solidity of the windmill blades? Do different designs (solid. by the 21st Century. Inc. The towers without guy wires are called freestanding towers. DC: Garden Way Associates. . Towers are also subject to drag. it is still a sufficient supplement for non-renewable fuels. tube spar. in a 23 mph wind. The tip speed ratio is calculated as speed of rotation of blade over the wind speed. Scientists estimate that. the windmill may become a great weapon in the quest for energy. Modern wind turbines have rations of 5 to 10 times that of the wind speed. A tip speed of 1:1 means that. etc. There are many types of towers. Another necessity for a windmill is the tower. Bibliography Mc Guain.

Sterland. G. Department of Energy Microsoft Corporation (1993) Encarta Redmond. S. (1967) Energy into Power Garden City. DC: U. S. Department of Energy (1978) Home Wind Power Washington. E. NY: Natural History Press U. WA: Microsoft Corporation .