Mesoscale to Microscale Coupling for a Wind Ramp Case over Complex Terrain

Patrick Hawbecker

Research output: NRELPresentation


Within the wind energy community, it has become increasingly important to simulate realistic weather events at high fidelity in order to improve wind turbine design, wind farm efficiency, and power forecasting. One of the major difficulties in simulating atmospheric events with numerical models at high fidelity is in accurately transitioning from the mesoscale to the microscale. The mesoscale flow, when input into the large-eddy simulation (LES) domain, will be free of resolved turbulence; needing sufficient time and space (known as fetch) for resolved-scale turbulence to develop. In order to reduce this fetch, several methods exist in which the temperature field, wind field, or both, are stochastically perturbed in order to accelerate the generation of turbulence. However, for cases involving complex terrain, it remains unclear if these perturbation processes are necessary, and if the interaction of the flow over the terrain, alone, is sufficient to generate adequate turbulence. In this study, a wind ramp event observed at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) outside of Boulder, CO is simulated first with a mesoscale model and then, using the simulated mesoscale solution as initial and boundary conditions, within a microscale LES solver. The mesoscale solution generated by the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model accurately captures the wind ramp event with only a slight temporal shift and a small temperature bias when compared to the meteorological towers in the NWTC site. This information is then taken as the initial and boundary conditions within the Simulator for Wind Farm Applications (SOWFA) microscale LES model with varying terrain inputs. These inputs include the high-resolution (roughly 30 m grid spacing) terrain data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) (Figure 1a), as well as, three intermediate terrain resolution data sets produced by applying a uniform convolution window to the SRTM data with varying window sizes (Figure 1b-d). These are compared to the WRF terrain data interpolated to the high-resolution microscale grid (Figure 1e) in order to determine the impact of low-resolution (about 1 km grid spacing) terrain data on turbulence generation. The wind field is compared at several heights and distances along the dominant wind flow axis between each of the terrain cases. It is found that the development of turbulence across the domain is accelerated as terrain information increases in fidelity. Further, because this ramp event at the location of interest is largely influenced by the interaction of the short-wave trough with the terrain, as the topographic information decreases in fidelity the accuracy of the ramp event is decreased. To make generalizations and describe the benefits and shortcomings of this approach, several of the existing perturbation techniques are employed and compared to that of turbulence generation through topographic features.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the 10th Conference on Weather, Climate, and the New Energy Economy at the American Meteorology Society Annual Meeting, 6-10 January 2019, Phoenix, Arizona

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5000-73098


  • complex terrain
  • mesoscale
  • mesoscale to microscale coupling
  • microscale
  • Simulator for Wind Farm Applications
  • terrain-generated turbulence


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