Small horizontal axis wind turbines (sHAWTs) are mostly designed by smaller companies with no or just small possibilities of aerodynamic testing and hence, airfoil selection is often based on published performance data and minimal or no experimental testing from the blade designer’s side. This paper focuses on the aerodynamic consequences resulting from an unqualified airfoil selection and accumulating surface soiling. The high performance low Reynolds profile FX 63-137 is compared to an Eppler-338 wing section as well as to a high performance utility scale wind turbine airfoil, AH 93-W-174 -1ex. We extensively investigated these three different airfoils within the low Reynolds regime between 50,000 and 200,000. This regime is especially important for the starting behavior of a wind turbine, i.e. a quick speed up, and is crucial for small wind turbines because they have more frequent start/stop events. A Reynolds number of 200 k is additionally the operational regime of some sHAWT under the 5–10 kW level.

The present study discusses not only the low Reynolds performance of the smooth profiles but investigates the influence of surface soiling. This ranges from 2D disturbances, such as a 0.2mm thin tripwire or several zigzag tapes, up to the simulation of massive sand build up by covering the entire leading edge region with a 40 grit sand paper. The experiments reveal that even small surface soiling has an impact and massive roughness leads in some cases to the loss of 50% in lift coefficient. The experimental data is used to simulate a sHAWT in different stages of debris. While the peak power was reduced by two thirds compared to the clean configuration the annual energy production has halved under certain conditions.

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