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Comparison of wind turbine tower failure modes under seismic and wind loads

Zhao, Z., Dai, K., Camara, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-1675-2640 , Bitsuamlak, G. & Sheng, C. (2019). Comparison of wind turbine tower failure modes under seismic and wind loads. Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, 33(2), article number 04019015. doi: 10.1061/(asce)cf.1943-5509.0001279


This paper studies the structural responses and failure modes of a 1.5-MW horizontal-axis wind turbine under strong ground motions and wind loading. Ground motions were selected and scaled to match the two design response spectra given by the seismic code, and wind loads were generated considering tropical cyclone scenarios. Nonlinear dynamic time-history analyses were conducted and structural performances under wind loads as well as short- and long-period ground motions compared. The results show that under strong wind loads the collapse of the wind turbine tower is driven by the formation of a plastic hinge at the lower section of the tower. This area is also critical when the tower is subject to most ground motions. However, some short-period earthquakes trigger the collapse of the middle and upper parts of the tower due to the increased contribution of high-order vibration modes. Although long-period ground motions tend to result in greater structural responses, short-period earthquakes may cause brittle failure modes in which the full plastic hinge develops quickly in regions of the tower with only a moderate energy dissipation capacity. Based on these results, recommendations for future turbine designs are proposed.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers. This material may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the American Society of Civil Engineers. This material may be found at
Publisher Keywords: wind turbine tower, finite element modeling, nonlinear dynamic analysis, pushover, structural failure, extreme wind load, earthquakes
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
T Technology > TJ Mechanical engineering and machinery
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Engineering
SWORD Depositor:
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