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The Low‐Cost Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Project: An exercise in learning across disciplines

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

New Concepts for Alternative and Renewable Energy Courses

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1222.1 - 23.1222.12



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Paper Authors


Narayanan M. Komerath Georgia Institute of Technology

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This is a student-led paper guided by Professor Komerath. Dr. Komerath is a professor of aerospace engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, and director of the Micro Renewable Energy Systems Laboratory. He has over 300 publications, over 120 of them peer-reviewed, plus 3 US Patents, and has guided 15 PhDs , 50+ MS and over 160 undergraduate research special problem projects. He is a former Chair of the Aerospace Division.

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Akshay Milind Pendharkar Georgia Institute of Technology

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An undergraduate at the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace in Georgia Tech, Akshay Pendharkar has been working with the Experimental Aerodynamics and Concepts Group (EACG) for over two years. As an international student from India he is scheduled to graduate in May 2013.

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Vrishank Raghav Georgia Institute of Technology

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The Low‐Cost Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Project: An exercise in learning across disciplines   This is a student‐led paper describing a multi‐year hands‐on project.  One of the five testbeds being developed at the Micro Renewable Energy Laboratory at out institution, is a low‐cost Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT).  This paper will describe how the student team, mostly undergraduates, participating in this project learn(ed) what they need(ed) to make progress, and to make the innovations necessary for success.    Building a vertical axis wind turbine looks easy, but encounters various issues.  Power generation comes primarily from two sectors around the rotor azimuth, with stalling and negative torque occurring in some other regions. Conventional turbines alleviate such issues using complex means such as pitch control using cam/linkage arrangements or using servo motors. These drive costs far beyond what can be made viable in the mass marketplace, and impose maintenance and repair/replacement costs that are beyond the reach of many anticipated user communities. Our team from the beginning, emphasized the use of inexpensive materials, commonly‐available (bicycle‐based) moving parts, and local construction/ repair/ maintenance suitability.   The emphasis on sustainable architecture with the parts and materials that can be easily disposed at the end of their lifetimes, also imposed constraints.    A prediction program has been developed by the student team and validated against work in the literature. It was then extended to look at the specific regime of interest with small family‐sized wind turbines, where the tip speed ratio must be held at the lower end of the optimal regime. Design guidance is derived from that prediction code, with the help of a graphical user interface.   The paper traces the evolution of the multi‐year student project, and summarizes recent experience of the team that is taking the design to field test readiness. Issues such as safety training, development and usage of skills in using hands‐on and analytical tools, and the process of team organization and progress monitoring, are all discussed. Prior work on these topics is extracted and summarized as appropriate.  

Komerath, N. M., & Pendharkar, A. M., & Raghav, V. (2013, June), The Low‐Cost Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Project: An exercise in learning across disciplines Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22607

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