Design procedures and experimental verification of an electro-thermal deicing system for wind turbines

David Getz, Jose Palacios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


There has been a substantial growth in the wind energy power capacity worldwide, and icing difficulties have been encountered in cold climate locations. Rotor blade icing has been recognized as an issue, and solutions to mitigate accretion effects have been identified. Wind turbines are adapting helicopter rotor and propeller ice protection approaches to reduce aerodynamic performance degradation related to ice formation. Electro-thermal heating is one of the main technologies used to protect rotors from ice accretion, and it is one of the main technologies being considered to protect wind turbines. In this research, the design process required to develop an ice protection system for wind turbines is discussed. The design approach relies on modeling and experimental testing. Electro-thermal heater system testing was conducted at the Adverse Environment Rotor Test Stand at Penn State, where wind turbine representative airfoils protected with electro-thermal deicing were tested at representative centrifugal loads and flow speeds. The wind turbine sections tested were half-scale models of the 80g% span region of a generic 1.5gMW wind turbine blade. The icing cloud impact velocity was matched to that of a 1.5gMW wind turbine at full power production. Ice accretion modeling was performed to provide an initial estimate of the power density required to de-bond accreted ice at a set of icing conditions. Varying icing conditions were considered at -8ggC with liquid water contents of the cloud varying from 0.2 to 0.9gg/m3 and water droplets from 20gμm median volumetric diameter to 35gμm. Then, ice accretion thickness gradients along the span of the rotor blade for the icing conditions were collected experimentally. Given a pre-determined maximum power allocated for the deicing system, heating the entire blade was not possible. Heating zones were introduced along the span and the chord of the blade to provide the required power density needed to remove the accreted ice. The heating sequence for the zones started at the tip of the blade, to allow de-bonded ice to shed off along the span of the rotor blade. The continuity of the accreted ice along the blade span means that when using a portioned heating zone, ice could de-bond over that specific zone, but the ice formation could remain attached cohesively as it is connected to the ice on the adjacent inboard zone. To prevent such cohesive retention of de-bonded ice sections, the research determined the minimum ice thickness required to shed the accreted ice mass with the given amount of power availability. The experimentally determined minimum ice thickness for the varying types of ice accreted creates sufficient tensile forces due to centrifugal loads to break the cohesive ice forces between two adjacent heating zones. The experimental data were critical in the design of a time sequence controller that allows consecutive deicing of heating zones along the span of the wind turbine blade. Based on the experimental and modeling efforts, deicing a representative 1.5gMW wind turbine with a 100gkW power allocation required four sections along the blade span, with each heater section covering 17.8g% span and delivering a 2.48gW/in.2 (0.385gW/cm2) power density.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1291-1309
Number of pages19
JournalWind Energy Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 6 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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