wind turbine optimization, blade aerostructural optimization, CFD, aerodynamic and structural optimization, blade design, airfoil parameterization


The objective of this research was to develop and compare various airfoil precomputational parameterization and analysis techniques for aerostructural optimization of wind turbine blades. The airfoils along the blade were added as optimization design variables through pre-computational parameterization methods using thickness-to-chord ratios and blended airfoil family factors. The airfoils' aerodynamic performance was analyzed with three methods of increasing fidelity: a panel method (XFOIL), Navier-Stokes based computational fluid dynamics (RANS CFD), and wind tunnel data. The optimizations minimized mass over annual energy production (m/AEP) and thereby approximated the minimization of cost of energy. The results were compared to the NREL 5-MW reference turbine and a conventional optimization where the airfoils were fixed. Results showed an average m/AEP reduction of 1.7% over conventional optimization methods. The primary benefit in adding the airfoil shape was through an increase in annual energy production (1.6%) with a similar decrease in turbine mass (1.8%). Using the precomputational airfoil parameterization methods provided significant reductions in the cost of energy with relatively minor additional computational cost.

Original Publication Citation

Barrett, R., and Ning, A., “Comparison of Airfoil Precomputational Analysis Methods for Optimization of Wind Turbine Blades,” IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Energy, Vol. 7, No. 3, Jul. 2016, pp. 1081–1088. doi:10.1109/TSTE.2016.2522381

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL






Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor