Real-Time Optimization and Adaptation of the Crosswind Flight of Tethered Wings for Airborne Wind Energy


Airborne wind energy systems aim to generate renewable energy by means of the aerodynamic lift produced using a wing tethered to the ground and controlled to fly crosswind paths. The problem of maximizing the average power developed by the generator, in the presence of limited information on wind speed and direction, is considered. At constant tether speed operation, the power is related to the traction force generated by the wing. First, a study of the traction force is presented for a general path parametrization. In particular, the sensitivity of the traction force on the path parameters is analyzed. Then, the results of this analysis are exploited to design an algorithm to maximize the force, hence the power, in real-time. The algorithm uses only the measured traction force on the tether and the wing’s position, and it is able to adapt the system’s operation to maximize the average force with uncertain and time-varying wind. The influence of inaccurate sensor readings and turbulent wind are also discussed. The presented algorithm is not dependent on a specific hardware setup and can act as an extension of existing control structures. Both numerical simulations and experimental results are presented to highlight the effectiveness of the approach.

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