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University of Vermont Theses & Dissertations

Saunders, Daniel Curtis
Wind Turbine Wake Interactions - Characterization of Unsteady Blade Forces and the Role of Wake Interactions in Power Variability Control
Growing concerns about the environmental impact of fossil fuel energy and improvements in both the cost and performance of wind turbine technologies has spurred a sharp expansion in wind energy generation. However, both the increasing size of wind farms and the increased contribution of wind energy to the overall electricity generation market has created new challenges. As wind farms grow in size and power density, the aerodynamic wake interactions that occur between neighboring turbines become increasingly important in characterizing the unsteady turbine loads and power output of the farm. Turbine wake interactions also impact variability of farm power generation, acting either to increase variability or decrease variability depending on the wind farm control algorithm. In this dissertation, both the unsteady vortex wake loading and the effect of wake interaction on farm power variability are investigated in order to better understand the fundamental physics that govern these processes and to better control wind farm operations to mitigate negative effects of wake interaction. The first part of the dissertation examines the effect of wake interactions between neighboring turbines on the variability in power output of a wind farm, demonstrating that turbine wake interactions can have a beneficial effect on reducing wind farm variability if the farm is properly controlled. In order to balance multiple objectives, such as maximizing farm power generation while reducing power variability, a model predictive control (MPC) technique with a novel farm power variability minimization objective function is utilized. The controller operation is influenced by a number of different time scales, including the MPC time horizon, the delay time between turbines, and the fluctuation time scales inherent in the incident wind. In the current research, a non-linear MPC technique is developed and used to investigate the effect of three time scales on wind farm operation and on variability in farm power output. The goal of the proposed controller is to explore the behavior of an ‘ideal’ farm-level MPC controller with different wind, delay and horizon time scales and to examine the reduction of system power variability that is possible in such a controller by effective use of wake interactions. The second part of the dissertation addresses the unsteady vortex loading on a downstream turbine caused by the interaction of the turbine blades with coherent vortex structures found within the upstream turbine wake. Periodic, stochastic, and transient loads all have an impact on the lifetime of the wind turbine blades and drivetrain. Vortex cutting (or vortex chopping) is a type of stochastic load that is commonly observed when a propeller or blade passes through a vortex structure and the blade width is of the same order of magnitude as the vortex core diameter. A series of Navier-Stokes simulations of vortex cutting with and without axial flow are presented. The goal of this research is to better understand the challenging physics of vortex cutting by the blade rotor, as well as to develop a simple, physics-based, validated expression to characterize the unsteady force induced by vortex

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