Due to the rapid progress in high-performance computing and the availability of increasingly large computational resources, Navier-Stokes computational fluid dynamics (CFD) now offers a cost-effective, versatile and accurate means to improve the understanding of the unsteady aerodynamics of Darrieus wind turbines and deliver more efficient designs.

In particular, the possibility of determining a fully resolved flow field past the blades by means of CFD offers the opportunity to both further understand the physics underlying the turbine fluid dynamics and to use this knowledge to validate lower-order models, which can have a wider diffusion in the wind energy sector, particularly for industrial use, in the light of their lower computational burden.

In this context, highly spatially and temporally refined time-dependent three-dimensional Navier-Stokes simulations were carried out using more than 16,000 processor cores per simulation on an IBM BG/Q cluster in order to investigate thoroughly the three-dimensional unsteady aerodynamics of a single blade in Darrieus-like motion. Particular attention was payed to tip losses, dynamic stall, and blade/wake interaction. CFD results are compared with those obtained with an open-source code based on the Lifting Line Free Vortex Wake Model (LLFVW). At present, this approach is the most refined method among the “lower-fidelity” models and, as the wake is explicitly resolved in contrast to BEM-based methods, LLFVW analyses provide three-dimensional flow solutions. Extended comparisons between the two approaches are presented and a critical analysis is carried out to identify the benefits and drawbacks of the two approaches.

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