Acoustic Travel-Time Tomography for Wind Energy

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


New remote sensing technologies for direct observation of the atmospheric flow in the proximity of operating wind turbines are necessary for the advancement of wind turbine design, wind plant control, and the validation of high-fidelity numerical models; fundamental goals of the DOE Wind Energy Technology Office's (WETO's) A2e program. Modern remote sensing technologies for commercial and research applications rely on the backscatter of light or sound waves, which limits spatial and temporal resolution and cannot produce reliable flow estimates near solid bodies or reflective surfaces. Acoustic tomography (AT) is an innovative sensing technology based on fundamental thermodynamic properties of the atmosphere and an inverse algorithm that can reconstruct both velocity and temperature fields within a network of acoustic transducers. AT relies on the direct travel path of acoustic signals between speakers and microphones in the network and can achieve much higher resolutions than conventional backscatter technologies. For wind energy R\&D applications, AT represents an extremely economical option over other remote sensing technologies, integrating mature and commonly available acoustic and signal processing hardware. This report is intended as an update on the development of the AT array on the NREL Flatirons Campus (FC) and includes a brief review of the instrumentation, the calibration of equipment, signal processing, and resulting flow field estimates. Designs for future AT systems and applications are detailed in this report, including summaries of new capabilities, engineering and theoretical challenges, and anticipated costs help to outline future directions for AT technology R\&D. The potential for application of AT to utility-scale turbines is also discussed. Investing in the development of the proposed instrument will establish AT as a transformational RS technique that represents a significant advance in measurement instrumentation, enabling new fundamental insights into the structure of the atmospheric boundary layer and supporting applications for wind energy, pollution transport, and resource characterization. AT is also an extremely economical option over other RS instruments, integrating mature and commonly available acoustic and signal processing hardware.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages46
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-84388


  • acoustic tomography
  • atmospheric
  • remote sensing
  • wind turbines


Dive into the research topics of 'Acoustic Travel-Time Tomography for Wind Energy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this