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Numerical modelling of inflatable airborne wind energy systems

Final Report Summary - NUMIWING (Numerical modelling of inflatable airborne wind energy systems)

The proposed research aims to numerically model the mutual interactions between the aero- and structural- dynamics of inflatable airborne wind energy (AWE) systems. Such systems offer several advantages over conventional wind turbines. For example, they harness stronger and steadier winds by flying at moderate to high altitudes, they are cheap to manufacture, and they can be rapidly deployed. AWE is a novel area of research, where conventional wind turbines cannot be used. At increasing altitudes, an excessive amount of structural materials would be needed to withstand the high mechanical stresses induced by heavy rotors, when placed on tower-based foundations. A competitive approach for AWE is to harness wind energy with an inflatable wing tethered to a ground station. Numerical tools capable of calculating the complete interactions between aerodynamics, structural dynamics, and flight dynamics of such power systems are currently at an early stage of development. An efficient strategy to minimise the computational cost is also lacking. To fill this knowledge gap, cutting-edge fluids and solids computational methods will be employed.

The overall deliverable is an open-source code to model the mutual interactions between airflows and AWE systems. Significant advances have been made on the numerical methods to simulate the complex aerodynamics around kite power wings and its interactions with the structure. At low Reynolds numbers, it has been shown that the flow turbulence around a leading-edge kite wing can impact on the canopy. At high Reynolds numbers, different turbulence models have been tested to accurately model the flow field. Additionally, the immersed-body method used to flexibly simulate fluid-structure interactions has been improved to prevent the flow from entering the structure. This was shown to lead to good results for the purpose of simulating airborne wind energy systems. These new methodologies can now be used to further advance the design and operation of kite power systems.

This research project is frontier both in terms of the technology that is investigated and the numerical models that are developed. Therefore, it impacts at both a scientific level (by developing high-fidelity modelling tools) and a societal level (by investigating novel concepts of renewable energy devices). It also impacts on the career perspectives of the Fellow by bringing together her experience in computational modelling and the host’s expertise in kite power.

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 618159


Closed project

  • Start date

    1 October 2013

  • End date

    30 September 2017

Funded under:


  • Overall budget:

    € 100 000

  • EU contribution

    € 100 000

Coordinated by: