Optimisation of Wind Turbine Blade Structural Topology

  • Buckney, Neil P (Principal Investigator)

Project Details


Larger wind turbines can generate more power and lower the cost of wind energy in a highly competitive market. The issue with increasing the size is that if a design is simply scaled up, with no change in the structural topology or materials, then the blade mass increases at a faster rate than the turbine power. The aim of my thesis was to investigate alternative structural layouts of wind turbine blades to reduce mass and cost. A lighter wind turbine blade can have a significant impact on the overall cost of the entire wind turbine because of the decreased loads on the rest of the structure.

To achieve mass reductions, an alternative structural layout was generated using topology optimisation. Despite many other developments in wind energy, the structural topology of wind turbine blades has remained largely unchanged. The result was a topology that varied along the blade length in response to changes in geometry (as shown in the figure).

Topology optimisation can generate alternative designs, but it is necessary to understand why the resulting topologies were successful. Structural efficiency methods were developed to quantitatively assess the design. The structural efficiency analysis provided a deeper understanding as to what elements made the design successful, which can be then fed back into the design process.

To this day, the structural topology of the blades has remained fixed despite increasing length and changing loads. Topology optimisation and structural efficiency analysis are shown as methods used to challenge this design convention and reduce blade mass, thereby lowering the cost of wind energy. By following a design methodology, such as topology optimisation, it is possible to create original designs with resulting benefits. A structural efficiency analysis can then be used to understand successful solutions, in order for the optimisation results.
Effective start/end date1/10/101/10/13