Meso- to Microscale 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 journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus Citations


Terrain-induced flow phenomena modulate wind turbine performance and wake behavior in ways that are not adequately accounted for in typical wind turbine wake and wind plant design models. In this work, we simulate flow over two parallel ridges with a wind turbine on one of the ridges, focusing on conditions observed during the Perdigao field campaign in 2017. Two case studies are selected to be representative of typical flow conditions at the site, including the effects of atmospheric stability: a stable case where a mountain wave occurs (as in ~ 50 % of the nights observed) and a convective case where a recirculation zone forms in the lee of the ridge with the turbine (as occurred over 50 % of the time with upstream winds normal to the ridgeline). We use the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF), dynamically downscaled from the mesoscale (6.75 km resolution) to microscale large-eddy simulation (LES) at 10 m resolution, where a generalized actuator disk (GAD) wind turbine parameterization is used to simulate turbine wakes. We compare the WRF-LES-GAD model results to data from meteorological towers, lidars, and a tethered lifting system, showing good qualitative and quantitative agreement for both case studies. Significantly, the wind turbine wake shows different amounts of vertical deflection from the terrain and persistence downstream in the two stability regimes. In 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. In the convective case, the wake deflects above the recirculation zone over 40 m above hub height at the same downstream distance. Overall, the WRF-LES-GAD model is able to capture the observed behavior of the wind turbine wakes, demonstrating the model's ability to represent wakes over complex terrain for two distinct and representative atmospheric stability classes, and, potentially, to improve wind turbine siting and operation in hilly landscapes.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)367-386
Number of pages20
JournalWind Energy Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

See NREL/JA-5000-80348 for article as published in Wind Energy Science Discussions

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-82409


  • complex terrain
  • wake
  • wind energy
  • wind turbine


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