Experimental Measurement and CFD Model Development of Thick Wind Turbine Airfoils with Leading Edge Erosion Conference Paper uri icon


  • Leading edge erosion and roughness accumulation is an issue observed with great variability by wind plant operators, but with little understanding of the effect on wind turbine performance. In wind tunnels, airfoil models are typically tested with standard grit roughness and trip tape to simulate the effects of roughness and erosion observed in field operation, but there is a lack of established relation between field measurements and wind tunnel test conditions. A research collaboration between lab, academic, and industry partners has sought to establish a method to estimate the effect of erosion in wind turbine blades that correlates to roughness and erosion measured in the field. Measurements of roughness and erosion were taken off of operational utility wind turbine blades using a profilometer. The field measurements were statistically reproduced in the wind tunnel on representative tip and midspan airfoils. Simultaneously, a computational model was developed and calibrated to capture the effect of roughness and erosion on airfoil transition and performance characteristics. The results indicate that the effects of field roughness fall between clean airfoil performance and the effects of transition tape. Severe leading edge erosion can cause detrimental performance effects beyond standard roughness. The results also indicate that a heavily eroded wind turbine blade can reduce annual energy production by over 5% for a utility scale wind turbine.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Maniaci, D. C., White, E. B., Wilcox, B., Langel, C. M., van Dam, C. P., & Paquette, J. A.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Maniaci, David C||White, Edward B||Wilcox, Benjamin||Langel, Christopher M||van Dam, CP||Paquette, Joshua A

publication date

  • January 2016