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Small wind turbine effectiveness in the urban environment

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Publication date: December 2018Source:Renewable Energy, Volume 129, Part A
Author(s): L. Battisti, E. Benini, A. Brighenti, S. Dell’Anna, M. Raciti Castelli
The aerodynamic design of small wind turbines for the urban setting attracts increasing interest within the scientific community, but the adoption of a proper control strategy may be just as important, especially in high turbulent winds, where such energy conversion devices should ideally operate. As a matter of fact, the mere rotor efficiency is meaningless unless the system has also the capability of rapidly changing its angular speed in case of a sudden variation of the wind velocity, to reach a new optimal operating condition. This work will attempt neither to develop dynamic simulation models nor to examine possible turbine control strategies, being the focus much broader, namely, the investigation of operational contexts where the peculiar inertial characteristics of wind turbines would compromise any form of robust control.Inertial and operational data of commercially available turbines (characterized by both horizontal and vertical-axis architectures), as well as the results disseminated in various literature sources, operational experiences and design best practices, are here collected under one cover and compared, thus deriving some basic and fundamental relations between rotor inertia and angular acceleration, highlighting how, in several cases, a control strategy based on the continuous tracking of the optimal operating condition is most unlikely.Such considerations raise the question of whether the problem of inertia renders futile many prevailing theories about small wind turbine operation and plans for implementing new control strategies, especially as far as vertical axis architectures are concerned. On the other hand, some constructive advice is also presented, in the form of a means to compare the effective performances of different turbines, in a given installation site, with respect to their nominal (i.e. steady state, or wind tunnel) behaviour. As a final result, a new bound for a reliable estimation of the amount of energy a wind turbine will generate in a specific site is suggested, based on the comparison between a representative time scale of the installation site and the response time of the candidate wind turbine.

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