Sensitivity Analysis of Turbine Fatigue and Ultimate Loads to Wind and Wake Characteristics in a Small Wind Farm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Wind turbines are designed using a set of simulations to determine the fatigue and ultimate loads, typically focused solely on unwaked wind turbine operation. These structural loads can be significantly influenced by the wind inflow conditions. When placed in the wake of upstream turbines, turbines experience altered inflow conditions, which can additionally influence the fatigue and ultimate loads. Although significant research and effort has been put into measuring and defining such parameters, limited work has been done to quantify the sensitivity of structural loads to the inevitable uncertainty in these inflow conditions, especially in a wind farm setting with waked conditions. It is therefore important to understand the impact such uncertainties have on the resulting loads of both non-waked and waked turbines. The goal of this work is to assess which wind-inflow- and wake-related parameters have the greatest influence on fatigue and ultimate loads during normal operation for turbines in a three-turbine wind farm. Twenty-eight wind inflow and wake parameters were screened using an elementary effects sensitivity analysis approach to identify the parameters that lead to the largest variation in the fatigue and ultimate loads of each turbine. This study was performed using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory 5 MW baseline wind turbine with synthetically generated inflow based on the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Kaimal turbulence spectrum with IEC exponential coherence model. The focus was on sensitivity to individual parameters, though interactions between parameters were considered, and how sensitivity differs between waked and non-waked turbines. The results of this work show that for both waked and non-waked turbines, ambient turbulence in the primary wind direction and shear were the most sensitive parameters for turbine fatigue and ultimate loads. Secondary parameters of importance for all turbines were identified as yaw misalignment, u-direction integral length, and the exponent and u components of the IEC coherence model. The tertiary parameters of importance differ between waked and non-waked turbines. Tertiary effects account for up to 9.0 % of the significant events for waked turbine ultimate loads and include veer; non-streamwise components of the IEC coherence model; Reynolds stresses; wind direction; air density; and several wake calibration parameters. For fatigue loads, tertiary effects account for up to 5.4% of the significant events and include vertical turbulence standard deviation; lateral and vertical wind integral lengths; lateral and vertical wind components of the IEC coherence model; Reynolds stresses; wind direction; and all wake calibration parameters. This information shows the increased importance of non-streamwise wind components and wake parameters in fatigue and ultimate load sensitivity of downstream turbines.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages21
JournalWind Energy Science Discussions
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

See NREL/JA-5000-85378 for final paper as published in Wind Energy Science

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-83469


  • elementary effects
  • FAST.Farm
  • loads analysis
  • NREL 5-MW baseline wind turbine
  • OpenFAST
  • sensitivity analysis
  • TurbSim
  • uncertainty
  • wake effects
  • wind farm


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