The assessment of robust CFD techniques is casting new light on the aerodynamics of airfoils rotating around an axis orthogonal to flow direction, with particular reference to flow curvature effects and stall mechanisms. In particular, Darrieus wind turbines’ designers are taking profit from these new discovers to improve the aerodynamic design of the rotors, in view of an increase of the overall efficiency and a reduction of the structural stresses on the blades.
A controversial design parameter for Darrieus turbines, especially in case of small-size rotors, is represented by the location of the blade-spoke connection along the chord.
The most common solution is indeed to place the connection at approximately airfoil’s quarter chord, i.e. where the pressure center is commonly located for low incidence angles. In some cases, however, the blade is connected at middle chord due to symmetry or aesthetic reasons. In some small turbines, innovative designs have even disregarded this parameter. Even if one can argue that the blade connection point is about to have some aerodynamic effects on the turbine’s performance, the real impact of this important design parameter is often not fully understood.
The present study makes use of extensive CFD simulations on a literature case study, using a NACA 0021 airfoil, to assess the influence of the blade-spoke connection point. In particular, the differences in terms of power coefficient curve of the turbine, optimal tip-speed ratio, torque profiles and stresses on the connection are analyzed and discussed. Detailed flow analyses are also shown for azimuthal positions of particular interest. Results on the selected case study showed that the middle-chord blade-spoke connection point seems to guarantee a higher performance of the rotor, even if additional solicitation is applied to the connection itself. It is further shown that the same performance can indeed be obtained with the airfoil attached at quarter chord and properly pitched. By doing so, the stresses are contained and the performance is maximized.