It has been widely reported that Darrieus turbines cannot self-start and that they require external assistance to accelerate to their operating tip speed ratios. However, recent experiments have shown conclusively that H-Darrieus rotors with fixed-pitch blades that employ a symmetrical aerofoil can reliably self-start in steady controlled environments. Previous attempts have also been made to model the starting characteristics but there still exists a significant discrepancy between the experimental data and model prediction, suggesting that our understanding of this starting characteristic remains weak. The investigation and explanation of the starting characteristics is the focus of this paper.

The investigation was made through a careful analysis of aerofoils that undergo Darrieus motion, giving some insights on how the blade experiences different flow conditions and how driving force is developed over the flight path. The analysis reveals that the aerofoil in Darrieus motion is analogous to flapping wing mechanism; the mechanism that fish and birds employ to generate propulsion. The explanation of flow physics and torque development can then be made through a simple pitch-heave concept.

The investigation using this concept together with observations of flapping creatures suggests that the key feature that promotes driving torque generation and the ability to self-start is the unsteadiness associated with the rotor. This unsteadiness is related to chord-to-diameter ratio. This, together with blade aspect ratio, and number of blades, is the reason why H-Darrieus turbines that employ a symmetrical aerofoil can self-start.

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