Darrieus vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) have been recently identified as the most promising solution for new types of applications, such as small-scale installations in complex terrains or offshore large floating platforms. To improve their efficiencies further and make them competitive with those of conventional horizontal axis wind turbines, a more in depth understanding of the physical phenomena that govern the aerodynamics past a rotating Darrieus turbine is needed. Within this context, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can play a fundamental role, since it represents the only model able to provide a detailed and comprehensive representation of the flow. Due to the complexity of similar simulations, however, the possibility of having reliable and detailed experimental data to be used as validation test cases is pivotal to tune the numerical tools. In this study, a two-dimensional (2D) unsteady Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes (U-RANS) computational model was applied to analyze the wake characteristics on the midplane of a small-size H-shaped Darrieus VAWT. The turbine was tested in a large-scale, open-jet wind tunnel, including both performance and wake measurements. Thanks to the availability of such a unique set of experimental data, systematic comparisons between simulations and experiments were carried out for analyzing the structure of the wake and correlating the main macrostructures of the flow to the local aerodynamic features of the airfoils in cycloidal motion. In general, good agreement on the turbine performance estimation was constantly appreciated.

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