Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Pablo M. Carrica


A high fidelity approach coupling the computational fluid dynamics method (CFD) and multi-body dynamics method (MBD) is presented for aero-servo-elastic wind turbine simulations. The approach uses the incompressible CFD dynamic overset code CFDShip-Iowa v4.5 to compute the aerodynamics, coupled with the MBD code Virtual.Lab Motion to predict the motion responses to the aerodynamic loads. The IEC 61400-1 ed. 3 recommended Mann wind turbulence model was implemented in this thesis into the code CFDShip-Iowa v4.5 as boundary and initial conditions, and used as the explicit wind turbulence for CFD simulations. A drivetrain model with control systems was implemented in the CFD/MBD framework for investigation of drivetrain dynamics. The tool and methodology developed in this thesis are unique, being the first time with complete wind turbine simulations including CFD of the rotor/tower aerodynamics, elastic blades, gearbox dynamics and feedback control systems in turbulent winds.

Dynamic overset CFD simulations were performed with the benchmark experiment UAE phase VI to demonstrate capabilities of the code for wind turbine aerodynamics. The complete turbine geometry was modeled, including blades and approximate geometries for hub, nacelle and tower. Unsteady Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (URANS) and Detached Eddy Simulation (DES) turbulence models were used in the simulations. Results for both variable wind speed at constant blade pitch angle and variable blade pitch angle at fixed wind speed show that the CFD predictions match the experimental data consistently well, including the general trends for power and thrust, sectional normal force coefficients and pressure coefficients at different sections along the blade.

The implemented Mann wind turbulence model was validated both theoretically and statistically by comparing the generated stationary wind turbulent field with the theoretical one-point spectrum for the three components of the velocity fluctuations, and by comparing the expected statistics from the simulated turbulent field by CFD with the explicit wind turbulence inlet boundary from the Mann model.

The proposed coupled CFD/MBD approach was applied to the conceptual NREL 5MW offshore wind turbine. Extensive simulations were performed in an increasing level of complexity to investigate the aerodynamic predictions, turbine performance, elastic blades, wind shear and atmospheric wind turbulence. Comparisons against the publicly available OC3 simulation results show good agreements between the CFD/MBD approach and the OC3 participants in time and frequency domains. Wind turbulence/turbine interaction was examined for the wake flow to analyze the influence of turbulent wind on wake diffusion.

The Gearbox Reliability Collaborative project gearbox was up-scaled in size and added to the NREL 5MW turbine with the purpose of demonstrating drivetrain dynamics. Generator torque and blade pitch controllers were implemented to simulate realistic operational conditions of commercial wind turbines. Interactions between wind turbulence, rotor aerodynamics, elastic blades, drivetrain dynamics at the gear-level and servo-control dynamics were studied, showing the potential of the methodology to study complex aerodynamic/mechanic systems.


Computational Fluid Dynamics, Drivetrain Dynamics, Fluid-Structure Interactions, High Performance Computing, Wind Turbine Aerodynamics, Wind Turbulence


xi, 148 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 142-148).


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Copyright 2014 Yuwei Li