Small Wind Turbine Performance Evaluation using Field Test Data and a Coupled Aero-electro-mechanical Model

Open Access
Wallace, Brian David
Graduate Program:
Aerospace Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 11, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Dennis K Mc Laughlin, Dissertation Advisor
  • Dennis K Mc Laughlin, Committee Chair
  • Mark David Maughmer, Committee Member
  • Sven Schmitz, Committee Member
  • Jeffrey Scott Mayer, Committee Member
  • Susan W Stewart, Committee Member
  • wind turbine
  • PMSG
  • alternative energy
  • wind energy
A series of field tests and theoretical analyses were performed on various wind turbine rotor designs at two Penn State residential-scale wind-electric facilities. This work involved the prediction and experimental measurement of the electrical and aerodynamic performance of three wind turbines; a 3 kW rated Whisper 175, 2.4 kW rated Skystream 3.7, and the Penn State designed Carolus wind turbine. Both the Skystream and Whisper 175 wind turbines are OEM blades which were originally installed at the facilities. The Carolus rotor is a carbon-fiber composite 2-bladed machine, designed and assembled at Penn State, with the intent of replacing the Whisper 175 rotor at the off-grid system. Rotor aerodynamic performance is modeled using WT$\_$Perf, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed Blade Element Momentum theory based performance prediction code. Steady-state power curves are predicted by coupling experimentally determined electrical characteristics with the aerodynamic performance of the rotor simulated with WT_Perf. A dynamometer test stand is used to establish the electro-mechanical efficiencies of the wind-electric system generator. Through the coupling of WT_Perf and dynamometer test results, an aero-electro-mechanical analysis procedure is developed and provides accurate predictions of wind system performance. The analysis of three different wind turbines gives a comprehensive assessment of the capability of the field test facilities and the accuracy of aero-electro-mechanical analysis procedures. Results from this study show that the Carolus and Whisper 175 rotors are running at higher tip-speed ratios than are optimum for power production. The aero-electro-mechanical analysis predicted the high operating tip-speed ratios of the rotors and was accurate at predicting output power for the systems. It is shown that the wind turbines operate at high tip-speeds because of a miss-match between the aerodynamic drive torque and the operating torque of the wind-system generator. Through the change of load impedance on the wind generator, the research facility has the ability to modify the rotational speed of the wind turbines, allowing the rotors to perform closer to their optimum tip-speed. Comparisons between field test data and performance predictions show that the aero-electro-mechanical analysis was able to predict differences in power production and rotational speed which result from changes in the system load impedance.