A new class of actuator surface models for wind turbines

Xiaolei Yang, Fotis Sotiropoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Actuator line model has been widely used in wind turbine simulations. However, the standard actuator line model does not include a model for the turbine nacelle which can significantly impact turbine wake characteristics. Another disadvantage of the standard actuator line model is that more geometrical features of turbine blades cannot be resolved on a finer mesh. To alleviate these disadvantages of the standard model, we develop a new class of actuator surface models for turbine blades and nacelle to take into account more geometrical details of turbine blades and include the effect of turbine nacelle. The actuator surface model for nacelle is evaluated by simulating the flow over periodically placed nacelles. Both the actuator surface simulation and the wall-resolved large-eddy simulation are conducted. The comparison shows that the actuator surface model is able to give acceptable results especially at far wake locations on a very coarse mesh. It is noted that although this model is used for the turbine nacelle in this work, it is also applicable to other bluff bodies. The capability of the actuator surface model in predicting turbine wakes is assessed by simulating the flow over the MEXICO (Model experiments in Controlled Conditions) turbine and the hydrokinetic turbine of Kang, Yang, and Sotiropoulos (Journal of Fluid Mechanics 744 (2014): 376-403). Comparisons of the computed results with measurements show that the proposed actuator surface model is able to predict the tip vortices, turbulence statistics, and meandering of turbine wake with good accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-302
Number of pages18
JournalWind Energy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by U.S. Department of Energy (DE-EE0002980, DE-EE0005482 and DE-AC04-94AL85000), Sandia National Laboratories, and Xcel Energy through the Renewable Development Fund (grant RD4-13). Computational resources were provided by Sandia National Laboratories, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • nacelle model
  • turbine parameterization
  • wake meandering


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