On the velocity at wind turbine and propeller actuator discs

Gijs A. M. Van Kuik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


The first version of the actuator disc momentum theory is more than 100 years old. The extension towards very low rotational speeds with high torque for discs with a constant circulation became available only recently. This theory gives the performance data like the power coefficient and average velocity at the disc. Potential flow calculations have added flow properties like the distribution of this velocity. The present paper addresses the comparison of actuator discs representing propellers and wind turbines, with emphasis on the velocity at the disc. At a low rotational speed, propeller discs have an expanding wake while still energy is put into the wake. The high angular momentum of the wake, due to the high torque, creates a pressure deficit which is supplemented by the pressure added by the disc thrust. This results in a positive energy balance while the wake axial velocity has lowered. In the propeller and wind turbine flow regime the velocity at the disc is 0 for a certain minimum but non-zero rotational speed. At the disc, the distribution of the axial velocity component is non-uniform in all actuator disc flows. However, the distribution of the velocity in the plane containing the axis, the meridian plane, is practically uniform (deviation < 0:2 %) for wind turbine disc flows with tip speed ratio > 5, almost uniform (deviation 2 %) for wind turbine disc flows with D 1 and propeller flows with advance ratio J D, and non-uniform (deviation 5 %) for the propeller disc flow with wake expansion at J D 2. These differences in uniformity are caused by the different strengths of the singularity in the wake boundary vorticity strength at its leading edge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-865
Number of pages11
JournalWind Energy Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2020


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