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Small Wind Turbines Research for Sustainable Energy Practices
Mentor: Dr. Kenneth D. Visser
Department: Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering

The efficiency of small wind turbines for distributed power generation and off grid applications is presently well below that of commercial operations. Optimizing such a turbine design in an unsteady, ambient environment is especially difficult for small turbines. Research is being conducted at the Clarkson University Wind Turbine Test Site on improving the efficiency of these turbines, especially at low wind speeds. The primary goal of this effort is to reduce the cost of electricity production by designing a maintenance free turbine to accommodate the wide range of environmental conditions. Novel multi-bladed designs have been investigated to improve small turbine efficiency. Initial results from numerical and wind tunnel investigations suggest that the aerodynamic performance of small HAWTs can be considerably improved if the number of blades and the solidity is increased beyond the 5% to 7% range commonly found in current designs. A higher solidity and/or blade number could extract more energy at a lower speed and offer additional advantages of lower noise, lower cut-in wind speed, and less blade erosion. Vertical Axis direct drive units are also under investigation. Full Scale prototype testing is conducted at the Clarkson Wind Turbine Test Site in Potsdam on new concepts and commercially available turbines as well. The site can measure the performance on 4 turbines simultaneously allowing immediate comparisons on turbine performance. Specific REU Project Activities could include one or all of the following: Computational analysis of novel wind turbine design and device behavior; Analysis of field data comparisons between prototypes and control turbines; and Construction and wind tunnel testing of new concepts.