Could you explain a little about your research?
My Final Year-Project consists of looking into the turbulence upstream of a wind turbine. As wind energy increases in popularity, understanding how to optimise rotors has become essential. Wind turbines are placed in the Earth’s boundary layer, which is turbulent. These varying loads will influence the turbine lifespan, especially for turbines placed in the wake of other rotors. We will therefore be placing model turbines (from previous L2 exercises) into turbulent flow and measuring the wind velocities upstream of the rotor. This will give us an idea on how the rotors affect the turbulence in front of them. This has already been modelled using Rapid Distortion Theory, right here in the Department by Prof Michael Graham. The aim of the project is to get some experimental data and compare the results with the theory, further validating the model.
How do Imperial’s facilities enable you to get the best out of your research?
For these experiments, the rotors need to be placed in turbulent flow. This can be done quite easily in other wind tunnels such as T2, using turbulence grids, which we are also doing during the project. However, the 10x5 offers much better conditions: it is possible to replicate the Earth's boundary layer using the roughness of the tunnel’s floor. This allows us to imitate the conditions that a full-scale wind turbine would be subjected to. The size of the tunnel also allows us to play with the height at which we want to place the nose cone of the turbine. In smaller wind tunnels, the rotor would need to be placed at mid-height, whilst in the 10x5, we can place the model at a height mimicking the hub height to diameter ratio of real turbines.
How do you find working with the 10 x 5 wind tunnel team?
The 10x5 wind tunnel team is extremely diverse, ranging from researchers and PhD students to technicians. I haven’t had the chance to spend a lot of time down there, but I found them all extremely friendly and willing to help. I can’t remember the number of times I asked to borrow their drill, but they were always ready to help me find whatever I needed for my work. The atmosphere in the 10x5 tunnel is really welcoming and I would have loved to spend more time there before the Coronavirus crisis.