Optimization and Economic Feasibility of Small-Scale Wind Turbines in Various Urban Settings and Wind Conditions

Project duration: 1/2012 - 1/2013
Funded by the Umbrella Cooperation

Example of a separation bubble (Note: "A" indicates the vortex appearing at the roof edge causing the separation bubble) (Source: Senz-Diez Muro et al., 2010) Example of a separation bubble (Note: "A" indicates the vortex appearing at the roof edge causing the separation bubble) (Source: Senz-Diez Muro et al., 2010)

In the framework of the Umbrella Cooperation, the Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behavior (FCN, RWTH Aachen University) and the Turbo and Jet Engine Laboratory (Technion University Haifa) are investigating the technical optimization and economic feasibility of small-scale wind turbines (SWT) in various urban settings and wind conditions. Specifically, this research project aims at a detailed understanding of the technical behavior and economics of SWT in various urban settings and wind conditions in order to optimize the technical efficiency design and fully exploit the economic potential of this technology.

The main objective of this research study is to investigate the investment opportunities in SWT for private households, dependent on the location under varying urban conditions. To this end, we model six different scenarios that differ with regard to the type of household and its electricity consumption, the type of the SWT and associated technical parameters, support schemes and bank loans, and particularly regarding the location and its varying conditions. Evaluating and comparing the outcomes of the economic feasibility assessment of the scenarios, we conclude that under current policy support schemes and the technological state-of-the-art, the location, the type of technology and the design are indeed crucial for an economically feasible investment in SWT.

As for the engineering part of the program (Technion), the project was in line with the hypothesis that SWT typically operate at low and highly turbulent wind speeds which are characteristic for urban areas, particularly near buildings (Figure). Hence in order to extract the maximum wind energy, the turbine should be agile, i.e. of low weight and low moment of inertia. Consequently, we focused on the development of a design optimization method for the turbine blades, having maximum aerodynamic performance at minimum moment of inertia. In addition, a test facility was built on our Turbo and Jet Engine Lab's roof, having an array with six anemometers to monitor wind properties at the area surrounding of the turbine enabling a close follow-up on the turbine's performance with association to the temporal wind conditions.

Project publications

Grieser B., Madlener R., Sunak Y. (2013). Economics of Small Wind Power Plants in Urban Settings: An Empirical Investigation for Germany, FCN Working Paper No. 1/2013, Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behavior, RWTH Aachen University, January.

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Reinhard Madlener

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Reinhard Madlener

Institutsleiter FCN

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+49 241 80 49820

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