22 Dec 2023
 | 22 Dec 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal WES.

On the significance of rain droplet slowdown and deformation for leading-edge rain erosion

Nils Barfknecht and Dominic von Terzi

Abstract. Leading-edge rain erosion is a severe problem in the wind energy community since it leads to blade damage and a reduction in annual energy production in the order of several percent. The impact speed of rain droplets is a key driver for the erosion rate; therefore, its precise computation is essential. This study investigates the aerodynamic interaction of rain droplets and wind turbine blades. Based on findings from the literature and an analysis of the relevant parameter space, it is found that the aerodynamic interaction leads to a reduction in the impact speed. Additionally, the rain droplets deform and break up as they approach the wind turbine blade. An existing Lagrangian particle model, developed for research in aircraft icing, is adapted, extended, and validated for leading edge rain erosion to study the process in more detail. Results show that the droplet slowdown reduces predicted damage toward the tip of the blade by over 50 %. The model indicates that the aerodynamic blade interaction affects small droplets significantly more than large droplets. Due to this drop size dependency, the damage accumulation is shifted towards higher rain intensity events. Additionally, the droplet impact speed is sensitive to the aerodynamic nose radius of the airfoil. Due to this sensitivity and its drop size dependency, the slowdown effect provides interesting levers for erosion mitigation via blade design or operational adjustments. To conclude, the aerodynamic interaction between droplet and blade is non-negligible and needs to be taken into account in erosion lifetime models.

Publisher's note: Copernicus Publications remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims made in the text, published maps, institutional affiliations, or any other geographical representation in this preprint. The responsibility to include appropriate place names lies with the authors.
Nils Barfknecht and Dominic von Terzi

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on wes-2023-169', Anonymous Referee #1, 26 Apr 2024
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Nils Barfknecht, 01 Jul 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on wes-2023-169', Anonymous Referee #2, 13 Jun 2024
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC2', Nils Barfknecht, 01 Jul 2024
  • AC3: 'Comment on wes-2023-169', Nils Barfknecht, 01 Jul 2024
Nils Barfknecht and Dominic von Terzi
Nils Barfknecht and Dominic von Terzi


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Short summary
Rain droplets damage wind turbine blades due to the high impact speed at the tip. In this study, it is found that rain droplets and wind turbine blades interact aerodynamically. The rain droplets slow down and deform close to the blade. A model from another field of study was adapted and validated to study this process in detail. This effect reduced the predicted erosion damage by up to 50 %, primarily affecting smaller drops. It is shown how the slowdown effect can influence erosion mitigation.