National Wind Technology Center-Characterization of Atmospheric Conditions

Nicholas Hamilton, Mithu Debnath

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Data provided by the instrumentation located at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) is compiled below for the purposes of characterizing the atmospheric operating conditions at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) wind site. Conditions are presented conditioned on month of the year to show seasonal variation, and based on characteristic quantities seen in the atmospheric flow including, bulk wind speed, direction, and atmospheric stability. All data reported and analyzed in the following document were collected from instrumentation mounted on the 135 m-tall masts erected at the NWTC near Boulder, Colorado. Each of the two met-masts (named M4 and M5) were sited specifically to measure the inflow wind to several of the utility-scale turbines at the NWTC. The construction, operation, and maintenance of the masts has been supported since their commissioning in 2011 by the Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind and Water Power Program. Data from the masts are publicly available for download or basic visualization, hosted on NREL's website ( Data from the masts have been used in the past for a wide range of projects including wind turbine power performance measurements, high fidelity model development and validation, and atmospheric science research. An interactive visualization platform has been developed on NREL's Open Energy Information platform and can be used to reproduce many of the graphics included in the current work. This report describes in detail the atmospheric conditions recorded by M5, the inflow mast for the DOE-owned GE 1.5 MW wind turbine. The report focuses on data recorded from August 2012 to May 2018 and includes: an introduction to the wind climate at the NWTC; a physical description of the met masts; a review of installed instrumentation; and data collection, processing, and quality control methods. In addition to a concise description of the instrumentation from the met masts and the data channels they provide, this report characterizes the behavior of the atmospheric resource first in a cumulative sense, discussing mainly the distributions wind speeds, flow directions and thermodynamic properties at several heights along the towers. Periodicity in atmospheric conditions is then detailed through analysis of diurnal and annual cycles of the data streams. Periods of both low turbulence and extreme atmospheric events that are of interest in terms of wind turbine operation and wind energy research are detailed in the final chapter of this report. Low turbulence events are somewhat rare at the NWTC and are of interest from the perspective of validating the operation of new wind turbine and blade designs. Similarly, the NTWC is known for a relatively higher rate of occurrence of extreme weather events.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages94
StatePublished - 2019

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-72091


  • extreme events
  • met mast
  • resource assessment
  • wind energy


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