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Transition to bluff-body dynamics in the wake of vertical-axis wind turbines

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2017

Daniel B. Araya*
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204, USA
Tim Colonius
Division of Engineering and Applied Science, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
John O. Dabiri
Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
Email address for correspondence:


We present experimental data to demonstrate that the far wake of a vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) exhibits features that are quantitatively similar to that of a circular cylinder with the same aspect ratio. For a fixed Reynolds number ( $Re\approx 0.8\times 10^{5}$ ) and variable tip-speed ratio, two-dimensional particle image velocimetry (PIV) is used to measure the velocity field in the wake of four different laboratory-scale models: a 2-bladed, 3-bladed and 5-bladed VAWT, as well as a circular cylinder. With these measurements, we use spectral analysis and proper orthogonal decomposition (POD) to evaluate statistics of the velocity field and investigate the large-scale coherent motions of the wake. In all cases, we observe three distinct regions in the VAWT wake: (i) the near wake, where periodic blade vortex shedding dominates; (ii) a transition region, where growth of a shear-layer instability occurs; (iii) the far wake, where bluff-body wake oscillations dominate. We define a dynamic solidity parameter, $\unicode[STIX]{x1D70E}_{D}$ , that relates the characteristic scales of the flow to the streamwise transition location in the wake. In general, we find that increasing $\unicode[STIX]{x1D70E}_{D}$ leads to an earlier transition, a greater initial velocity deficit and a faster rate of recovery in the wake. We propose a coordinate transformation using $\unicode[STIX]{x1D70E}_{D}$ in which the minimum velocity recovery profiles of the VAWT wake closely match that of the cylinder wake. The results have implications for manipulating VAWT wake recovery within a wind farm.

© 2017 Cambridge University Press 

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