Integrated Design of Downwind Land-Based Wind Turbines using Analytic Gradients

Derek Petch, Andrew Ning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus Citations


Wind turbines are complex systems where component-level changes can have significant system-level effects. Effective wind turbine optimization generally requires an integrated analysis approach with a large number of design variables. Optimizing across large variable sets is orders of magnitude more efficient with gradient-based methods as compared with gradient-free method, particularly when using exact gradients. We have developed a wind turbine analysis set of over 100 components where 90% of the models provide numerically exact gradients through symbolic differentiation, automatic differentiation, and adjoint methods. This framework is applied to a specific design study focused on downwind land-based wind turbines. Downwind machines are of potential interest for large wind turbines where the blades are often constrained by the stiffness required to prevent a tower strike. The mass of these rotor blades may be reduced by utilizing a downwind configuration where the constraints on tower strike are less restrictive. The large turbines of this study range in power rating from 5-7MW and in diameter from 105m to 175m. The changes in blade mass and power production have important effects on the rest of the system, and thus the nacelle and tower systems are also optimized. For high-speed wind sites, downwind configurations do not appear advantageous. The decrease in blade mass (10%) is offset by increases in tower mass caused by the bending moment from the rotor-nacelle-assembly. For low-wind speed sites, the decrease in blade mass is more significant (25-30%) and shows potential for modest decreases in overall cost of energy (around 1-2%).
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2137-2152
Number of pages16
JournalWind Energy
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-66195


  • analytic gradients
  • blade optimization
  • downwind rotors
  • integrated turbine design
  • upwind rotors
  • wind turbine optimization


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