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I'm looking for the best package for doing the following: building a 3D model (or loading externally) of a non-standard windmill shape, simulating an airflow over the model, and determining the generated torque. Ideally, it would be either open-source, or have a free demo/low-cost version. Nice-to-have, would be one reasonably simple for a beginner to use. (And Python-based scripting, as long as I'm making a wish...)

As an example, consider this conical wind turbine. How exactly could one determine its power output?

Although I've found various formulas for computing the efficiency of wind turbines, they only apply to the standard three-bladed horizontal-axis turbine. And I don't have the mathematical skills to derive a formula for any non-standard shape. So I'm wondering if a) it could be determined by a simulation, and b) if there's a package that I could manage to do it in.

Packages I've looked at, include numpy/scipy, Blender 3D, Unity 3D (game engine), and FreeCAD. It's possible one of those would manage it, but my cursory evaluation didn't determine that.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm hoping this is on-topic - the FAQ does say packages are fair game. :) $\endgroup$ – John C Apr 25 '13 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ OT: Wow, conical turbines look cool! $\endgroup$ – geometrikal Apr 25 '13 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ I think the answer is that, yes, these sort of things can be done but that it requires knowledge of numerical methods, high performance computing, aerodynamics, etc. You're rather unlikely to find well developed existing packages for non-standard tasks -- people develop software for standard tasks, nobody develops software that can solve any non-standard problem such as crazy-shaped wind turbines. $\endgroup$ – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 26 '13 at 2:02
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    $\begingroup$ I would say this problem is still an active research topic, as the flow over a wind turbine cannot be described with simple physics. The closest start would be a tool like OpenFOAM, but you've still quite a ways to go from there. $\endgroup$ – Aron Ahmadia Apr 26 '13 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ Knowing people who work on this sort of thing (they do what Wolfgang has described), yes, this sort of problem is an active area of research. $\endgroup$ – Geoff Oxberry Apr 29 '13 at 3:28
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(actually the comments provide an answer to your question, but this is additional information).

1) http://qblade.de.to/

This is a link to a free software called as QBlade. It is a wind turbine design and optimization software with emphasis on blade design (using XFOIL). This might come useful in designing/ optimization the rotor blades.

What can it be used for? :- In designing and optimizing horizontal, vertical axis turbines. Design of turbine blades. (mainly aerodynamics)

2) http://www.fm.mek.dtu.dk/upload/institutter/mek/fm/eksamensprojekter/andreespaze2007.pdf

This is a link to a report titled 'free software on wind turbine modelling'. This is written in python, and mainly combines various free codes/softwares. It uses MBDyn for simulation of structural mechanics of turbine. It uses unsteady BEM for aerodynamic loads simulation.

Why should it be useful? :-

This report discusses about python scripting and python integration with other free softwares, which as per the question is a desirable feature.

3) https://code.google.com/p/windenergytk/

This is a link to windenergytk, a compilation of software tools aimed towards full design and development of entire wind-turbine project. The modules include analysis, synthesis, aerodynamics, vibrations, electrodynamics and system performance.

Why have I suggested this? :- Although this code is aimed towards designing of the conventional turbines, it has different modules covering different aspects, So you can (I think) use one / several of them for specialized tasks, and integrate them with your code. In short, you might derive chunks of code from this which can then be used to do some of your tasks.

4) https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/44504/richard-ves?sequence=1

This is a link to a report titled 'OPTIMIZATION OF A WIND TURBINE ROTOR WITH VARIABLE AIRFOIL SHAPE VIA A GENETIC ALGORITHM'. And discusses the optimization procedure and consequences of the blade shape of a rotor.

Purpose of including this link:- In order to develop unconventional rotors, you might have to do lot of optimization in shape of rotor blades, so this reference can be referred to see how it is done in case of conventional turbines, and may possibly be extended to unconventional designs. (I have not done this work, but I thought somebody might find this useful).

5) http://mbdynsimsuite.sourceforge.net/windSimSuite/index.html

This is a link to the software called Wind sim suite. It also uses MBDyn. Two models are included for simulations,

a) 2 bladed Control Advanced Research Turbine (CART)

b) 3 Blades 5 MW National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) turbine.

Why this link? :- There is extensive documentation and case studies available. The software is written in python.

Following link is not really a software, but shows some unconventional wind turbine designs,

http://www.greendiary.com/innovative-wind-turbine-designs-of-the-year.html

IMO, design and development of a novel design is an iterative process, and one might have to use conventional CFD / FEA tools to do so (packages like OpenFAOM, or commercial softwares like Fluent, ANSYS etc). If it is a very new design / concept, then only simulations are not sufficient and one might have to carry out some experimentation.

all the best

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    $\begingroup$ Could you please provide a bit more explanation to go with the links? A link dump by itself is not terribly informative, and doesn't suggest why it might be worth visiting any of those links. $\endgroup$ – Geoff Oxberry May 21 '13 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @ Geoff Oxberry, I apologize for a crude answer. I have added a bit more information. Any other suggestions are welcome. $\endgroup$ – Subodh May 21 '13 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Subodh - Thanks for the substantial contribution, I think the edits make it look much better. If you want a better feel for how to write a good longform answer, you should look at some of Geoff's top answers. $\endgroup$ – Aron Ahmadia May 23 '13 at 1:09

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