Icing limits the performance of wind turbines in cold climates. The prediction of the aerodynamic performance losses and their distribution due to ice accretion is essential. Blade element momentum (BEM) is the basis of blade structural studies. The accuracy and limitations of this method in icing condition are assessed in the present study. To this purpose, a computational study on the aerodynamic performance of the full-scale NREL 5 MW rotor is performed. Three-dimensional (3D) steady Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes (RANS) simulations are performed for both clean and iced blade, as well as BEM calculations using two-dimensional (2D) computational fluid dynamics (CFD) sectional airfoil data. The total power calculated by the BEM method is in close agreement with the 3D CFD results for the clean blade. There is a 4% deviation, while it is underestimated by 28% for the iced one. The load distribution along the clean blade span differs between both methods. Load loss due to the ice, predicted by 3D CFD, is 32% in extracted power and the main loss occurs at the regions where the ice horn height exceeds 8% of the chord length.

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