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Applying rotorcraft modelling technology to renewable energy research

Kelly, Mary E. and Phillips, Catriona and Scheurich, Frank and Kim, Hyo Wan and Fletcher, Timothy M. and Brown, R.E. (2009) Applying rotorcraft modelling technology to renewable energy research. In: 2nd AHS/KSASS International Forum on Rotorcraft Multidiscipllinary Technology, 2009-10-19 - 2009-10-20.

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The perceived need to reduce mankind's impact on the global climate motivates towards a future society in which a significant proportion of its energy needs will be extracted from the winds and the tides of the planet. This paper shows several examples of the application of Brown's Vorticity Transport Model, originally developed to perform simulations of helicopter aeromechanics and wake dynamics, to the analysis of the performance of renewable energy devices and their possible impact on the environment. Prediction of the loading on wind turbines introduces significant additional challenges to such a model, including the need to account fully for the effects of radial flow on blade stall. The wake-mediated aerodynamic interactions that occur within a wind farm can reduce its power output significantly, but this problem is very similar to that where the aerodynamic unsteadiness of the coupled wake of the main and tail rotors of a helicopter can result in significantly increased pilot workload. The helicopter-related problem of brownout, encountered during operations in desert conditions, has its analogue in the entrainment of sediment into the wakes of tidal turbines. In both cases it may be possible to ameliorate the influence of the rotor on its environment by careful and well-informed design. Finally, calculations of the distortion and dispersal of the exhaust plumes of a helicopter by the wake of its rotor allow insight into how wind turbines might interfere with the dispersal of pollutants from nearby industrial sites. These examples show how cross-disciplinary information transfer between the rotorcraft field and the renewable energy community is helping to develop the technologies that will be required by our future society, as well as helping to understand the environmental issues that might need to be faced as these technologies become more prevalent.