Comprehensive Energy and Environment Research

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Student Research Team Examines Wind Turbine Efficiency

05/05/16

Two Ohio State aeronautical and astronautical engineering students who share a passion for wind energy found a way to improve wind turbines.

Andito Eddy and Curtiss Stewart wanted to increase the efficiency of vertical axis wind turbines. Vertical axis wind turbines, where the axis or main shaft is mounted vertically, or perpendicular to the earth's surface, are smaller than horizontal wind turbines. They often are placed in smaller urban settings. They are significantly less efficient, however, than the horizontal wind turbines.

Eddy and Stewart, who received research funding in 2015 from Ohio State’s Office of Energy and Environment to pursue this project, planned to accommodate for changes in wind speed and ultimately optimize the efficiency of the turbine. They and a team of fellow students began by finding the optimal angle at which the blades would self-start at lower wind speeds and function adequately at variable speeds.

Student team members (from left) Christopher Stringer, Perry Lee, Curtiss Stewart, Andito Eddy and Shoshana Klein pose by a turbine from a jet engine on the first floor of Scott Lab.

They were then able to draw a prototype and fabricate the turbine blades. The blades consisted of a foam core that replicated the airfoil shape of the blade; Carbon-Kevlar composite, which wrapped around the foam core; and endplates that attach to the track and allow the blades to pivot.

They tested and analyzed the results of their turbine prototype using both fixed blades, where the blades are set to one position, and passive variable pitch blades, which adjust in a synchronized movement based on the wind direction. Though they didn’t achieve the desired power coefficient, they still saw the results they wanted: Variable pitch blades make a vertical wind turbine more efficient.

“Success is difficult,” says Stewart. “We thought we had failed, but once we presented to Ohio State faculty and professionals in aerospace, we realized what we were looking for was there, and they saw that too.”

Eddy and Stewart are continuing to improve the efficiency of vertical wind turbines by working with active variable pitch blades that incorporate a computer-like device to adjust the blades to the optimal position for wind speed.

Eddy, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, is pursuing entry into the graduate program at Ohio State to continue research in the field of wind energy. He hopes to have a career in the computational fluid dynamics field, having the knowledge and capability to model and perform simulations dealing with any situation. Stewart also graduated in 2015 with a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering and now works at Battelle as a researcher.

The Office of Energy and Environment’s support of student research is part of Ohio State’s continued efforts to advance sustainability across campus and throughout the community, including strategic sustainability goals developed by faculty, staff and students that are designed to enhance and expand policies, operations and practices.

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