Large Eddy Simulations of the Flow Past Wind Turbines: Actuator Line and Disk Modeling

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216 Scopus Citations


Large eddy simulations of the flow through wind turbines have been carried out using actuator disk and actuator line models for the turbine rotor aerodynamics. In this study, we compare the performance of these two models in producing wind turbine wakes. We also examine parameters that strongly affect the performance of these models, namely, grid resolution and the way in which the actuator force is projected onto the flow field. The proper choice of these two parameters has not been adequately addressed in previous works. We see that as the grid is coarsened, the predicted power decreases. As the width of the body force projection function is increased, the predicted power increases. The actuator disk and actuator line models produce similar wake profiles and predict power within 1% of one another when subject to the same uniform inflow. The actuator line model is able to generate flow structures near the blades such as root and tip vortices which the actuator disk model does not, but in the far wake, the predicted mean wakes are very similar. In order to perform validation against experimental data, the actuator line model output was compared with data from the wind tunnel experiment conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim. Agreement between measured and predicted power, wake profiles, and turbulent kinetic energy has been observed for most tip speed ratios; larger discrepancies in power and thrust coefficient, though, have been found for tip speed ratios of 9 and 12.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1047-1060
Number of pages14
JournalWind Energy
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-60579


  • actuator disk model
  • actuator line model
  • computational fluid dynamics
  • large eddy simulations


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