Abstract Wind turbine design procedures usually involve the adoption of the blade element – momentum theory. Nevertheless, its use is limited by the lack of extended database regarding the aerodynamic coefficients for most used airfoils. In the present work, an extended database generation procedure for symmetric profiles is discussed and validated with the aim of adopting numerical optimization methods for vertical-axis wind turbine design. Evolutionary algorithms are thereby utilized to provide optimal configurations for different design objectives. The pure performance and the annual energy production are here considered in order to show the capabilities of the numerical code. A relevant increase in performance is achieved for all the obtained results, showing that the numerical optimization can be successfully adopted in vertical-axis wind turbine design procedures.