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Wing Deformation of an Airborne Wind Energy System in Crosswind Flight

Using High-Fidelity Fluid–Structure Interaction

By Niels Pynaert, Thomas Haas, Jolan Wauters, Guillaume Crevecoeur and Joris Degroote


Airborne wind energy is an emerging technology for the conversion of wind energy into electricity. Airborne wind energy systems fly crosswind patterns with a tethered aircraft connected to a generator. With the aerodynamic forces acting on the aircraft, the aircraft pulls on the tether and the tether reels out to drive the generator on the ground, which produces electricity. These systems have the potential to capture wind energy at heights unreachable to current wind turbines, and also use much less material.

In my Ph.D. research, we develop tools to simulate the aerodynamic forces acting on airborne wind energy systems using computational fluid dynamics. These simulation tools are very accurate but require large computational resources. The aerodynamic simulations are performed using the VSC (Vlaams Supercomputer Centrum) Tier-1 cluster. These supercomputers enable us to study the aerodynamics of airborne wind energy systems in detail. Using 392 cores, the simulation takes about 8 hours to complete one crosswind flight loop.


Visualization of the wake after (left) the first loop and (right) the last loop for the crosswind flight with logarithmic inflow. Note that the flow is from right to left. From the contour plot of the x-velocity, the logarithmic profile is clearly visible, but this is disturbed when the aircraft wing passes through this plane due to induced flow. From the flow field after the last loop, it can be seen that there is a velocity deficit in the downstream direction.


These (VSC) supercomputers enable us to study the aerodynamics of airborne wind energy systems in detail. Using 392 cores, the simulation takes about 8 hours to complete one crosswind flight loop.

The objective of this study is to gain a proper understanding of the unsteady interaction of air and this flexible and dynamic system during operation, which is key to developing viable, large AWE systems. In our latest work, the effect of wing deformation on an AWE system performing a crosswind flight maneuver was assessed using high-fidelity time-varying fluid–structure interaction simulations.


 

Read the full publication in the MDPI here.

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