integrated turbine design, analytic gradients, downwind rotors, upwind rotors, blade optimization, wind turbine optimization


Wind turbines are complex systems where component-level changes can have significant system-level effects. Effective wind turbine optimization generally requires an integrated analysis approach with a large number of design variables. Optimizing across large variable sets is orders of magnitude more efficient with gradient-based methods as compared to gradient-free method, particularly when using exact gradients. We have developed a wind turbine analysis set of over 100 components where 90% of the models provide numerically exact gradients through symbolic differentiation, automatic differentiation, and adjoint methods. This framework is applied to a specific design study focused on downwind land-based wind turbines.

Downwind machines are of potential interest for large wind turbines where the blades are often constrained by the stiffness required to prevent a tower strike. The mass of these rotor blades may be reduced by utilizing a downwind configuration where the constraints on tower strike are less restrictive. The large turbines of this study range in power rating from 5–7 MW and in diameter from 105–175 m. The changes in blade mass and power production have important effects on the rest of the system and thus the nacelle and tower systems are also optimized. For high-speed wind sites, downwind configurations do not appear advantageous. The decrease in blade mass (10%) is offset by increases in tower mass caused by the bending moment from the rotor-nacelle-assembly. For low-wind speed sites the decrease in blade mass is more significant (25–30%) and shows potential for modest decreases in overall cost of energy (around 1–2%).

Original Publication Citation

Ning, A., and Petch, D., “Integrated Design of Downwind Land-based Wind Turbines using Analytic Gradients,” Wind Energy, Vol. 19, No. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 2137–2152. doi:10.1002/we.1972

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor