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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N006127/1
Title: Servo-aeroelastic tailoring of wind turbines using new active-to-passive control systems
Principal Investigator: Weaver, Professor PM
Other Investigators:
Yue, Dr H Pirrera, Dr A Leithead, Professor WE
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
DNV GL (UK) Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult Vestas
Department: Aerospace Engineering
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2016 Ends: 31 December 2018 Value (£): 549,539
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Wind Power
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 Jun 2015 SUPERGEN Wind 2015 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In recent years, the cost of energy produced by renewable supplies has steadily decreased. This factor, together with socio-economical reasons, has made renewable energies increasingly competitive, as confirmed by industry growth figures. Considering wind turbines (WTs), there are some interesting technical challenges associated with the drive to build larger, more durable rotors that produce more energy, in a cheaper, more cost efficient way. The rationale for moving towards larger rotors is that, with current designs, the power generated by WTs is theoretically proportional to the square of the blade length. Furthermore, taller WTs operate at higher altitudes and, on average, at greater wind speeds. Hence, in general, a single rotor can produce more energy than two rotors with half the area. However, larger blades are heavier, more expensive and increasingly prone to greater aerodynamic and inertial forces. In fact, it has been shown that they exhibit a cubic relationship between length and mass, meaning that material costs, inertial and self-weight effects grow faster than the energy output as the blade size increases. In addition, larger blades also have knock-on implications for the design of nacelle components.

The wind-field through which the rotor sweeps varies both in time and space. Consequently, the force and torque distributions for the blades exhibit strong peaks at frequencies which are integer multiples of the rotor speed. Additional peaks are induced by lightly damped structural modes. The loads on the blades combine to produce unbalanced loads on the rotor which are transmitted to the hub, main bearing and other drive-train components. These unbalanced loads are a major contribution to the lifetime equivalent fatigue loads for some components which could cause premature structural failure. As the size of the blades increase, the unbalanced loads increase and the frequency of the spectral peaks decrease. Hence, they have an increasing impact as the size of the turbines become bigger.

In this scenario, the demand for improvements in blade design is evident. The notion of increasingly mass efficient turbines, which are also able to harvest more energy, is immediately attractive.

The viability of a novel adaptive blade concept for use with horizontal axis WTs is studied in this project. By suitably tailoring the elastic response of a blade to the aerodynamic pressure it could be possible to improve a turbine's annual energy production, whilst simultaneously alleviating structural loads. These improvements are obtained in a passive adaptive manner, by exploiting the capabilities that structural anisotropy and geometrically induced couplings provide. In particular, induced elastic twist could be used to vary the angle of attack of the blade sections according to power requirements, i.e. the elastic twist is tailored to change with wind speed proportionally to the bending load. The adaptive behaviour allows the blade geometry to follow the theoretically optimum shape for power generation closely (which varies as a function of the far field wind speed). This concept retains the load alleviation capability of previously proposed designs, whilst simultaneously enhancing energy production. Structurally, the adaptive behaviour is achieved by merging the bend-twist coupling capabilities of off-axis composite plies and of a swept blade planform. Potentially, an adaptive blade, controlled only by generator torque, could perform to power standards comparable to that of the current state-of-the-art-while greatly reducing complexity, cost and maintenance of wind turbines, by challenging the need for active pitch control systems.
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Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk