Effect of Blade Surface Contamination on Wind Turbine Energy Production

Research projects

Project Description:

This PhD scholarship is offered by the Aura Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment; a partnership between the Universities of Durham, Hull, Newcastle and Sheffield. The successful applicant will undertake a PG-Dip training year and will continue their PhD research at the University of Hull.


For more information visit www.auracdt.hull.ac.uk. Or if you have a direct question about the project, please email auracdt@hull.ac.uk and we will forward the query to the relevant supervisor. Please do not contact the project supervisors directly.


This project aims to use CFD analysis and wind tunnel testing to assess the effects that sand-induced leading edge erosion and sand adhesion to wind turbine blades has on energy production.

Leading Edge Erosion of wind turbine blades, caused by rain, hail and particulate impacts, can significantly affect the aerodynamic performance of blades and reduce the energy yield of turbines. Recent results have shown that the progression of erosion and the reduction in Annual Energy Production can be modelled with good accuracy. As offshore wind energy becomes more widely deployed, the impact of atmospheric sand on turbine performance becomes more important. In desert regions and offshore sites close to desert areas, airborne sand adheres to turbine blades and also causes leading edge erosion. The mechanisms and effects of sand adhesion and erosion are less well understood than rain induced effects.

This project will use field data on sand adhesion and sand-induced erosion of turbine blades as inputs to computational fluid dynamic (CFD) models in order to assess the effect of these phenomena on the lift and drag of typical aerofoil sections. The results of these numerical models will be validated through wind tunnel testing of appropriate scaled blade sections. The resulting aerodynamic performance changes will be combined with wind resource data to estimate the effect of sand on annual energy production and this will be compared to field data for full scale turbines. Applicants for this project should have experience of computational fluid dynamics. Experience of wind tunnel testing would be an advantage but is not essential.


Training and Skills

The student will be trained in CFD methods and development of appropriate wind tunnel testing methods. Career opportunities include: offshore wind farm planning and development; development of blade leading edge protection systems; Operations and Maintenance planning in industry or in academia.


Entry requirements

If you have received a First-class Honours degree or a 2:1 Honours degree and a Masters (or the international equivalents) in Engineering or Physics, we would like to hear from you. Experience of Computational Fluid Dynamics would be an advantage.

If your first language is not English, or you require Tier 4 student visa to study, you will be required to provide evidence of your English language proficiency level that meets the requirements of the Aura CDT’s academic partners. This course requires academic IELTS 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.0 in each skill.



The Aura CDT is funded by the EPSRC and NERC, allowing us to provide scholarships that cover fees plus a stipend set at the UKRI nationally agreed rates, circa £17,668 per annum at 2022/23 rates (subject to progress).



Research Council funding for postgraduate research has residence requirements. Our Aura CDT scholarships are available to Home (UK) Students. To be considered a Home student, and therefore eligible for a full award, a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the scholarship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education). For full eligibility information, please refer to the EPSRC website. In addition, a number of Aura CDT Scholarships will be available to International Students across the projects offered by the partner institutions.


How to apply

Applications are via the University of Hull online portal; you must also download a supplementary application from the Aura CDT website, complete and submit as part of the online application.

For more information about the Aura CDT including links and detailed instructions please visit our how to apply page.



Duffy, A., Ingram, G. and Hogg, S. (2022) ‘The Significance of Bypass Transition on the Annual Energy Production of an Offshore Wind Turbine’, Wind Energy, 25 (4). pp. 772-787

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for information on our 2023 PhD Scholarships

For enquiries, contact auracdt@hull.ac.uk