The demand for wind energy as a renewable source is rising substantially. A growing interest exists in utilizing potential energy conversion applications in areas with less powerful and less consistent wind conditions. In these areas, vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) possess several advantages over the conventional horizontal-axis type. Savonius turbines are drag-based rotors which operate due to a pressure difference between the advancing and retreating blades. These turbines are simpler in design, less expensive to install, independent of wind direction, and more efficient at low wind speeds. In the present study, rotors were designed with semi-circle blades consisting of a helical shape with twist angle of 90 degrees. Helical designs spread the torque applied to the rotor over a complete revolution with the purpose of increasing efficiency. Three models were analyzed with different number of blades including 2, 3, and 4 blade models.
Models for testing were designed using the CAD software SolidWorks. The blades were then 3D printed with PLA plastic. A consistent swept area was maintained for each model, and only blade number was varied. Subsonic, open-type wind tunnel testing was used for measuring RPM and reactional torque over a range of wind speeds. For the numerical approach, ANSYS Fluent simulations were used for analyzing aerodynamic performance by utilizing moving reference frame and sliding mesh model techniques. Due to the helical twist, the cross-section of the blades varied in the Y-direction. Because of this, a 3-dimensional and transient method was used for accurately solving torque and power coefficients. It has been found that the highest average power coefficient observed in the study is achieved by the Helical2 model (2-bladed helical design VAWT model), both numerically and experimentally.