Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Aerospace Engineering


Engineering Mechanics; Wind Energy Science, Engineering, and Policy

First Advisor

Partha P. Sarkar


To reach the high standards set for renewable energy production in the US and around the globe, wind turbines with taller towers and longer blades are being designed for onshore and offshore wind developments to capture more energy from higher winds aloft and a larger rotor diameter. However, amongst all the wind turbine components wind turbine blades are still the most prone to damage. Given that wind turbine blades experience dynamic loads from multiple sources, there is a need to be able to predict the real-time load, stress distribution and response of the blade in a given wind environment for damage, flutter and fatigue life predictions.

Current methods of wind-induced response analysis for wind turbine blades use approximations that are not suitable for wind turbine blade airfoils which are thick, and therefore lead to inaccurate life predictions. Additionally, a time-domain formulation can prove to be especially advantageous for predicting aerodynamic loads on wind turbine blades since they operate in a turbulent atmospheric boundary layer. This will help to analyze the blades on wind turbines that operate individually or in a farm setting where they experience high turbulence in the wake of another wind turbine. A time-domain formulation is also useful for examining the effects of gusty winds that are transient in nature like in gust fronts, thunderstorms or extreme events such as hurricanes, microbursts, and tornadoes. Time-domain methods present the opportunity for real-time health monitoring strategies that can easily be used with finite element methods for prediction of fatigue life or onset of flutter instability.

The purpose of the proposed work is to develop a robust computational model to predict the loads, stresses and response of a wind turbine blade in operating and extreme wind conditions. The model can be used to inform health monitoring strategies for preventative maintenance and provide a realistic number of stress cycles that the blade will experience for fatigue life prediction procedures. To fill in the gaps in the existing knowledge and meet the overall goal of the proposed research, the following objectives were accomplished: (a) improve the existing aeroelastic (motion- and turbulence-induced) load models to predict the response of wind turbine blade airfoils to understand its behavior in turbulent wind, (b) understand, model and predict the response of wind turbine blades in transient or gusty wind, boundary-layer wind and incoherent wind over the span of the blade, (c) understand the effects of aero-structural coupling between the along-wind, cross-wind and torsional vibrations, and finally (d) develop a computational tool using the improved time-domain load model to predict the real-time load, stress distribution and response of a given wind turbine blade during operating and parked conditions subject to a specific wind environment both in a short and long term for damage, flutter and fatigue life predictions.


Copyright Owner

Heather Scot Sauder



File Format


File Size

144 pages