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Access Type

Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering

Degree Type

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (M.S.M.E.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Aerodynamics, Wind Turbines, Potential Flow, Vortex Methods, GPU Computing


Potential flow simulations are a great engineering type, middle-ground approach to modeling complex aerodynamic systems, but quickly become computationally unwieldy for large domains. An N-body problem with N-squared interactions to calculate, this free wake vortex model of a wind turbine is well suited to parallel computation. This thesis discusses general trends in wind turbine modeling, a potential flow model of the rotor of the NREL 5MW reference turbine, various forms of parallel computing, current GPU hardware, and the application of ground effects to the model. In the vicinity of 200,000 points, current GPU hardware was found to be nearly 17 times faster than an OpenMP 12 core CPU parallel code, and over 280 times faster than serial MATLAB code. Convergence of the solution is found to be dependent on the direction in which the grid is refined. The "no entry" condition at the ground plane is found to have a measurable but small impact on the model outputs with a periodicity driven by the blade proximity to the ground plane. The effect of the ground panel method was found to converge to that of the "method of images" for increasing ground extent and number of panels.


First Advisor

Matthew A Lackner