Do Wind Turbines Pose Roll Hazards to Light Aircraft?

Jessica M. Tomaszewski, Julie K. Lundquist, Matthew J. Churchfield, Patrick J. Moriarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus Citations


Wind energy accounted for 5.6 % of all electricity generation in the United States in 2016. Much of this development has occurred in rural locations, where open spaces favorable for harnessing wind also serve general aviation airports. As such, nearly 40 % of all United States wind turbines exist within 10 km of a small airport. Wind turbines generate electricity by extracting momentum from the atmosphere, creating downwind wakes characterized by wind-speed deficits and increased turbulence. Recently, the concern that turbine wakes pose hazards for small aircraft has been used to limit wind-farm development. Herein, we assess roll hazards to small aircraft using large-eddy simulations (LES) of a utility-scale turbine wake. Wind-generated lift forces and subsequent rolling moments are calculated for hypothetical aircraft transecting the wake in various orientations. Stably and neutrally stratified cases are explored, with the stable case presenting a possible worst-case scenario due to longer-persisting wakes permitted by lower ambient turbulence. In both cases, only 0.001 % of rolling moments experienced by hypothetical aircraft during down-wake and cross-wake transects lead to an increased risk of rolling.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)833-843
Number of pages11
JournalWind Energy Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

See NREL/JA-5000-72193 for article as published in Wind Energy Science Discussions

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-73919


  • aircraft
  • large-eddy simulations
  • wakes


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