Meso- to Micro-Scale Modeling of Atmospheric Stability Effects on Wind Turbine Wake Behavior in Complex Terrain

Adam Wise, James Neher, Robert Arthur, Jeffrey Mirocha, Julie Lundquist, Fotini Chow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Most detailed modeling and simulation studies of wind turbine wakes have considered flat terrain scenarios. Wind turbines, however, are commonly sited in mountainous or hilly terrain to take advantage of accelerating flow over ridgelines. In addition to topographic acceleration, other turbulent flow phenomena commonly occur in complex terrain, and often depend upon the thermal stratification of the atmospheric boundary layer. Enhanced understanding of wind turbine wake interaction with these terrain-induced flow phenomena can significantly improve wind farm siting, optimization, and control. In this study, we simulate conditions observed during the Perdigão field campaign in 2017, consisting of flow over two parallel ridges with a wind turbine located on top of one of the ridges. We use the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) nested down to micro-scale large-eddy simulation (LES) at 10 m resolution, with a generalized actuator disk (GAD) wind turbine parameterization to simulate turbine wakes. Two case studies are selected, a stable case where a mountain wave occurs and a convective case where a recirculation zone forms in the lee of the ridge with the turbine. The WRF-LES-GAD model is validated against data from meteorological towers, soundings, and a tethered lifting system, showing good agreement for both cases. Comparisons with scanning Doppler lidar data for the stable case show that the overall characteristics of the mountain wave are well-captured, although the wind speed is underestimated. For the convective case, the size of the recirculation zone within the valley shows good agreement. The wind turbine wake behavior shows dependence on atmospheric stability, with different amounts of vertical deflection from the terrain and persistence downstream for the stable and convective conditions. For the stable case, the wake follows the terrain along with the mountain wave and deflects downwards by nearly 100 m below hub-height at four rotor diameters downstream. For the convective case, the wake deflects above the recirculation zone over 50 m above hub-height at the same downstream distance. This study demonstrates the ability of the WRF-LES-GAD model to capture the expected behavior of wind turbine wakes in regions of complex terrain, and thereby to potentially improve wind turbine siting and operation in hilly landscapes.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages36
JournalWind Energy Science Discussions
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

See NREL/JA-5000-82409 for final article as published in Wind Energy Science

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-80348


  • complex terrain
  • wake
  • wind energy
  • wind turbine


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