Experimental assessment of RANS models for wind load estimation over solar-panel arrays

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This paper reports a comparison between wind-tunnel measurements and numerical simulations to assess the capabilities of Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes models to estimate the wind load over solar-panel arrays. The free airstream impinging on solar-panel arrays creates a complex separated flow at large Reynolds number, which is severely challenging for the current Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes models. The Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes models compared in this article are k-ϵ, Shear-Stress Transport k-ω, transition and Reynolds Shear Model. Particle Image Velocimetry measurements are performed to investigate the mean flow-velocity and turbulent-kinetic-energy fields. Pressure taps are located in the surface of the solar panel model in order to obtain static pressure measurements. All the Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes models predict accurate average velocity fields when compared with the experimental ones. One of the challenging factor is to predict correctly the thickness of the turbulent wake. In this aspect, Reynolds Shear provides the best results, reproducing the wake shrink observed on the 3rd panel in the experiment. On the other hand, some other features, most notably the blockage encountered by the flow below the panels, are not correctly reproduced by any of the models. The pressure distributions over the 1st panel obtained from the different Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes models show good agreement with the pressure measurements. However, for the rest of the panels Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes fidelity is severely challenged. Overall, the Reynolds Shear model provides the best pressure estimation in terms of pressure difference between the front and back sides of the panels.
This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Computational Fluid Dynamics in Mechanical Engineering
Computational wind engineering, RANS, Solar-panel array
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Güemes, A., Fajardo, P. & Raiola, M. (2021). Experimental Assessment of RANS Models for Wind Load Estimation over Solar-Panel Arrays. Applied Sciences, 11(6), 2496.