Vortex generators (VGs) are passive flow control devices commonly employed to prevent flow separation on wind turbine blades. They mitigate the damaging fatigue loads resulting from stall while increasing lift and consequently lead to rotor torque increase. This work summarizes a research project aimed at optimizing the sectional as well as the full rotor-blade aerodynamics using VGs.

The effects of chordwise position, spanwise spacing and VG size were studied with force balance measurements of a 2D wing section. Reducing the distance between adjacent VGs produced large increases in the static stall angle and maximum lift, but also resulted in a significant increase in drag as well as sharp lift excursions at angles exceeding the static stall angle. The optimal chordwise position of the vortex generators was found to be in the range of x/c = 15%–20%, where a comparatively low parasitic drag and a smooth post-stall lift curve were achieved. Particle Image Velocimetry measurements were conducted at various chordwise positions to provide insight into the interaction between adjacent streamwise vortices.

The experimental aerodynamic performance curves of the optimal VG configuration were used to project their effect on wind turbine blade aerodynamics. Three different rotorblades were designed and several stall and pitch regulated wind turbine models were simulated by means of a Blade Element Momentum (BEM) code (QBlade) developed by Smart Blade GmbH. The performance of the rotorblades with and without VGs was simulated in order to assess their effect on the aerodynamic performance and loads. Finally, previously measured steady state performance curves under high-roughness conditions were used to simulate the detrimental effect of surface roughness on the performance of the aforementioned rotorblades. This allows for an estimate of the potential of the VGs to be employed as retrofit elements for performance recovery of blades with a contaminated surface.

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