A Fluid Solver for Studying Torsional Galloping in Solar-Tracking PV Panel Arrays

Research output: NRELPresentation


Solar-tracking photovoltaic arrays are susceptible to aeroelastic fluttering during high-wind events. This dynamic fluttering behavior can grow in amplitude until the panels enter an unstable mode known as torsional galloping which can lead to panel failure or total array destruction. To better understand the physics of the torsional galloping phenomenon, and to inform the discussion around panel design and recommended panel stow positions during high wind events, a fluid-structure interaction solver composed of a simulated atmospheric boundary layer with simplified panel structural responses was designed. The simulation choices and features of this solver were informed by the geometry and physical properties of an experimental panel array known to exhibit torsional galloping behavior during hind-wind events. These simulations revealed that the torsional galloping instability is driven by a combination of cyclic vortex shedding from the sun-facing side of the panel and the elastic properties of the torque tube linking the panel assemblies. Testing different stow angles across a range of wind speeds indicates that panels are generally more stable when stowed at negative angles where the leading edge is closer to the ground, hypothesized to be due to ground-blocking effects.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePresented at the DuraMAT Webinar, 12 October 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2C00-78203


  • fluid
  • galloping
  • photovoltaics
  • solar
  • torsional


Dive into the research topics of 'A Fluid Solver for Studying Torsional Galloping in Solar-Tracking PV Panel Arrays'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this