• wind turbine;
  • aerofoil data;
  • NREL Phase VI experiments;
  • free wake vortex model;
  • wake circulation


Blade element momentum (BEM) methods are still the most common methods used for predicting the aerodynamic loads during the aeroelastic design of wind turbine blades. However, their accuracy is limited by the availability of reliable aerofoil data. Owing to the 3D nature of the flow over wind turbine blades, the aerofoil characteristics will vary considerably from the 2D aerofoil characteristics, especially at the inboard sections of the blades. Detailed surface pressure measurements on the blade surfaces may be used to derive more realistic aerofoil data. However, in doing so, knowledge of the angle of attack distributions is required. This study presents a method in which a free wake vortex model is used to derive such distributions for the NREL Phase VI wind turbine under different operating conditions. The derived free wake geometry solutions are plotted together with the corresponding wake circulation distribution. These plots provide better insight into how circulation formed at the blades is eventually diffused into the wake. The free wake model is described and its numerical behaviour is examined. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley &Sons, Ltd.