Measuring Wind Turbines with Snowfall

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One of the challenges in large-scale wind energy is that operating wind turbines do not behave exactly as predicted by simulation or wind tunnel experiments. To determine where our models and small-scale experiments are lacking, it’s useful to make measurements using a full-scale working turbine, but making quantitative measurements in such a large-scale, uncontrolled environment is very difficult. Here researchers have used natural snowfall as seeding particles for flow visualization. The regular gaps in the flow are vortices shed from the tip of the passing turbine blades. With a searchlight illuminating a 36 m x 36 m slice of the flow behind a wind turbine, the engineers performed particle image velocimetry, obtaining velocity measurements in that region that could then be correlated to the wind turbine’s power output. Such in situ measurements will help researchers improve wind turbine performance. (Video credit: J. Hong et al.)

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