This paper presents the results of a wide experimental study on an H-type Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) carried out at Politecnico di Milano in the frame of the national founded project PRIN 2009. The experiments were carried out in the large-scale wind tunnel of the Politecnico di Milano, where real-scale wind turbines for micro generation can be tested in full similarity conditions. Integral torque and thrust measurements were performed, as well as detailed aerodynamic measurements to characterize the flow field generated by the turbine downstream of the rotor.

The machine was tested in both confined and non-confined environment, to highlight the effect of wind tunnel blockage on the aerodynamics and performance of the VAWT under investigation. The experimental results, compared with the blockage correlations presently available, suggest that specific correction models should be developed for VAWTs. The experimental thrust and power curves of the turbine, derived from integral measurements, exhibit the expected trends with a peak power coefficient of about 0.28 at tip-speed ratio λ = 2.5. Detailed flow measurements, performed in three conditions for λ equal to 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5, show the fully three-dimensional character of the wake, especially in the tip region where a non-symmetrical wake and tip vortex are found. The unsteady evolution of the velocity and turbulence fields further highlight the effect of aerodynamic loading on the wake unsteadiness, showing the time-dependent nature of the tip vortex and the onset of a non-symmetric dynamic stall for λ lower than 2.

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