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13th World Congress in Mechanism and Machine Science, Guanajuato, Mxico, 19-25 June, 2011


Mechanism to Control Power in Small Wind Turbines

G. Munoz-Hernandez*

Queretaro, Mexico.

M. Matinez-Jimenez

Abstract Power control of small wind turbines was

studied by using the active stall method. Pitch angle of
the blade was changed in order to reduce the power of
the turbine rotor for high wind speed. The measurement
of pitch moment of the blade was the first stage of the
study. The results of pitch moment were measured as a
function of angular speed of wind turbine rotor. The next
stage was the evaluation of the control options. Pitch
control to feather and active stall was evaluated. Active
stall showed advantages and it was used in a rotor with a
diameter of 1.6 m.
Fig. 1. Furling method
Keywords: Small Wind Turbine, Pitch Control, Active Stall, Wind

The second method is called stall. The blade is designed

to produce stall in high winds. Stall increases the drag
force in the rotor blades and reduces the lift force. This
phenomenon produces turbulence and low efficiency.
The design of the system is very complex and involves
the use of auxiliary control systems. Additionally, it
presents vibrations [4].

I. Introduction
Small and large wind turbines can increase the use of
renewable energy sources. The generation of electricity
from small wind turbines has shown growth of around
78% for the year 2008 in the United States of America
[1]. International standard IEC 61400-2 [2] classified
wind turbines as small for rotor swept areas of less than
200 m2.

The third method is pitch control or the change of blades

pitch angle. The pitch angle () is determined by the
aerofoil chord and rotation plane of the rotor (Figure 2).
One option of this method is to increase the pitch angle
of the blade to the feather position. This will reduce the
angle of attack, and the force known as lift L is also
reduced. Therefore, the efficiency of the rotor is also
decreasing. Another option is to reduce the pitch (to
increase attack angle) to increase the drag force (D) and
the blades induce stall. The latter option is called active
stall, which also reduces the efficiency of the rotor by
changing the pitch angle. This method is used in large
wind turbines through electromechanical control systems
and hydraulics. SWT designs are still looking for options
that allow reliability and low cost. Different control
systems have been patented in SWT by using centrifugal
force [5] [6] [7]. For example the patent cited [8] shows
masses located on the blades, the centrifugal force on the
mass makes the blade rotates go to a feathered state.

The development of small wind turbines (SWT) includes

several challenges; one of them is the operation control
or protection system for high wind speed. Wind speed
higher than design speed may cause failure of the turbine
systems from mechanical or electrical overload. There
are several ways to protect the turbines at high wind
speed. The most logical way is to avoid capture power
from the high speed wind; that is, from the rotor [3].
There are three methods to limit aerodynamic power. The
first method is to tilt the rotor relative to the wind flow.
Wind speed is reduced through the rotor, and then the
power captured is also reduced (Figure 1). This system is
called furling, but it has a disadvantage. Wind gusts or
sudden movements of the rotor produce impacts on the
components or vibration with significant fatigue loads

13th World Congress in Mechanism and Machine Science, Guanajuato, Mxico, 19-25 June, 2011


Fig. 2. Parameters of blade. M is the pitch moment. V is the

relative wind speed, c is the chord of the blade, is the relative angle,
is the attack angle and F is the resultant force on the blade, where L and
D are components.

The pitch angle is one of the most used methods to

control large wind turbines [4] and is the subject of study
in this work. Thus, the following objectives were defined:

Fig. 3. Three-bladed rotor designed by BEM method

The measurement of the torque M (Figure 2) is

particularly important, when the turbine has reached its
rate power or design power. Due to the rotation of the
blades during operation of the rotor, it was not possible to
use load cells or strain gauges to measure the moment M.
The electrical wires and limited space for devices makes
installation complex. A wireless transducer was not a
feasible option, especially if batteries were required.

a) To measure the torque M to allow rotation of the blade

b) To propose a pitch control system that allows control
of the blade in high wind speed.

II. Methodology
A. Measurement of torque M
The experimental unit was a 3-blade rotor with swept
area of 2 m2, a diameter of 1.6 m and a design power of
250 W (Figure 3). This rotor was designed by using the
method of blade element momentum (BEM) [9] [3] [10]
[11] and a blade profile designed by NREL and specific
application for SWT [12]. The rotor hub supports the
rotor blades on two bearings. The bearings allow free
rotation of the blades. The base of the blade was
manufactured of aluminum alloy 6061 T6. The aluminum
base is embedded in the fiberglass blade. The rotor was
mounted on a shaft of a Harbart alternator of 500 W
(Figure 3). To induce a wind current in the rotor, a 7.5 hp
centrifugal fan was used. It generated wind speeds in the
swept area as illustrated in Figure 4. Wind speeds were
measured with a digital anemometer Xtech 451126 CFM
model. The rotor speed was determined with a digital
tachometer DT-2234C of Travers Tool Co.

Fig. 4. Wind speed distribution in the rotor swept area of the SWT

13th World Congress in Mechanism and Machine Science, Guanajuato, Mxico, 19-25 June, 2011


Figure 4. When the rotor reached 200 rpm, the fan

was disconnected. At 200 rpm the wire failure had
not occurred. Next run was on 367 rpm and was
controlled by turning off the fun. At angular speed
of 367 rpm, the wire failure occurred. The angular
rotor speed was recorded on the digital tachometer.
iii. Now two wires were used and the rotor worked on
468 rev / min. The two wires failed.
iv. Three wires were used on 633 rpm. They did not
v. These tests were progressive for the speed at which
failure occurred up to 5 wires for 767 rpm, which is
close to design speed.

One interesting option to measure M is the use of sewing

wire previously calibrated. The tensile strength of each
wire can estimate the force Fae (Figure 5).

By recording angular speed of the rotor and the number

failed wires, it is possible to obtain Fae. The torque M is
the product of Fae and the radial distance of 0.033 m.
Now different drives can be used to control the pitch.
B. Pitch control options
Two options for pitch control were proposed. The first
one consisted of a centrifugal force driven by three
masses. They were placed into radial pipes. The
centrifugal forces of the masses pull to rotate blades at
design speed (Figure 6). If the centrifugal load is lower
than Fae, then the blade does not rotate. It means a
bigger mass has to be considered.

Fig. 5. Pre-loaded wires to determine Fae force

The tensile strength times the radial distance from the

bearings center to the wire, provides the value of torque
M. Torque M can be also estimated from the wind tunnel
by using the equation (1) [9]. CM is the coefficient of
pitch moment and is the wind density.

M = V2 c 2 C M

Fig. 6. Drawing of the masses fit on steel pipes to control the pitch of
the blade.

The second option was to avoid masses and drive the

blade to stall by using the torque M. In angular speed
lower than design speed (700 rpm), the position of the
blade is kept on pitch 0, just by using a pre-calibrated
torsion spring. It means the blade works at optimal attack
angle at all times. If the angular speed is higher than
design speed, the torque M is higher than the spring
torque. This option is called active stall and the power
is decreased by increasing the drag force. Figure 7 shows
an example of active stall control for a 1.5 MW turbine.
It can be observed that pitch angle is lower than 5 to
reach power control at nominal power [13].

Five tests were conducted to determine the tensile

strength of each wire. Average tensile strength was 1.22
kg-f (11.9 N) with a standard deviation of 0.012 kg-f
(0.117 N). The measurement procedure was as follows:
i. Calibration of each wire to determine the tensile
strength of failure. This was done by using a spring
scale and a pre-loaded Ohaus Model Brand
EP2102C scale with 10 mg precision.
ii. Progressive placement of wires on the blade. The
blade was placed in working position with an initial
pitch angle of 0. The first wire was used. The fan
was connected to provide a wind speed as shown in

13th World Congress in Mechanism and Machine Science, Guanajuato, Mxico, 19-25 June, 2011

Figure 7. Active stall to control power in a 1.5 MW wind turbine [13]


13th World Congress in Mechanism and Machine Science, Guanajuato, Mxico, 19-25 June, 2011


III. Implementation and results

Table 1 shows the results of measured torque M for
different angular speeds of the rotor.

Table 1. Torque M versus the angular speed

The results showed that the torque M varies depending

on the angular speed of the rotor and therefore the
relative wind speed V. The torque at 700 rpm was
estimated at 4.5 Nm. The torque required by each blade
in the design speed was 1.9 Nm, i.e. 42% of design rotor
torque. According to equation (1), the CM coefficient can
be estimated for any rotor. By using a torsion spring, it is
now possible to calibrate the system to reach a specific
nominal power. A wind tunnel is a way to calibrate the

Fig. 8. Active stall test method

The active stall method showed the following
Lower angles are needed to control speed.
Spruce [13] and Burton et al [14] showed that
5 of pitch was enough to control power at
values close to nominal power in big wind
Aerodynamic torque is generated using the
same blade or M.
Simple mechanism did not use cables, mass or
friction parts.
The spring mechanism is patented. It creates a
precise torque without changing the spring.
Thus the nominal power can be selected
depending on the design.

The first option of control with three masses was

complex. Some disadvantages can be listed:


Torque M requires a big mass for the rotor. It

means a big load or large arm torque to reach
rotation of the blade
Due to the big magnitude of the masses, a
uniform rotation mechanism of the three
blades has to be implemented because the
independent rotation and large masses imply
dynamic rotor unbalance.
The use of cables and bending arms is required
to transmit the centrifugal forces and implies
the failure of the cables due to fatigue. Some
proprietary commercial systems involve a
mechanism without the use of cables, but they
show a complex design.

IV. Conclusions
The measurement of torque M is an essential activity in
the design of a pitch control system. Measuring by
sewing wires was an interesting method, but small
deformations involving the wire can result in angles
greater than 2 in the pitch and can lead to different
values in M. The ongoing review of options has shown
that pressure sensing films are an alternative that can
prevent distortion of the wires.

Active stall was tested in the 1.6 m rotor by using the fan
and the wind speed shown in Figure 4. The rotor operated
without active stall worked at speeds over 1300 rpm,
while with the use of active stall control with 7.2, the
angular speed was obtained at very close to design speed,
743 rpm (Figure 8).

The rotor speed depends on wind speed through the


13th World Congress in Mechanism and Machine Science, Guanajuato, Mxico, 19-25 June, 2011

relative velocity. Therefore, the power control of the

turbine can be achieved through the rotor speed. The
significant reduction in operating speed to 743 rpm and
its stability showed that the active stall method works.
[13] Hansen M. O.L. Aerodynamics of Wind Turbines. Sterling VA
USA : Editorial Earthsacan. Second Edition, 2008.

One of the disadvantages set out in the systems that use

stall is the presence of vibrations due to the phenomenon
of stall on the blades of large turbines. Even when the
vibrations were not detectable at the small turbine, it is
suggested to avoid large pitch angles and makes
experiments with values lower than 5, according to the
performance of the turbine.


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Chichester West Sussex, PO19 1UD, England : JOHN WILEY &
SONS, LTD, 2001. ISBN 0 471 48997 2.
[3] IEC. Design Requirements for Small Wind Turbines. 2a-2006-03
Design Requirements for Small Wind Turbines. 2006. IEC 61400-2.
[4] Piggott H. Windpower Workshop. Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 9AZ,
UK. : Centre for Alternative Technology Publications, 2000.




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