Computational Modeling of Unsteady Loads in Tidal Boundary Layers

Spencer R. Alexander, University of Colorado Boulder


As ocean current turbines move from the design stage into production and installation, a better understanding of oceanic turbulent flows and localized loading is required to more accurately predict turbine performance and durability. In the present study, large eddy simulations (LES) are used to measure the unsteady loads and bending moments that would be experienced by an ocean current turbine placed in a tidal channel. The LES model captures currents due to winds, waves, thermal convection, and tides, thereby providing a high degree of physical realism. Probability density functions, means, and variances of unsteady loads are calculated, and further statistical measures of the turbulent environment are also examined, including vertical profiles of Reynolds stresses, two-point correlations, and velocity structure functions. The simulations show that waves and tidal velocity had the largest impact on the strength of off-axis turbine loads. By contrast, boundary layer stability and wind speeds were shown to have minimal impact on the strength of off- axis turbine loads. It is shown both analytically and using simulation results that either transverse velocity structure functions or two-point transverse velocity spatial correlations are good predictors of unsteady loading in tidal channels.