Synergistic Effects of Turbine Wakes and Atmospheric Stability on Power Production at an Onshore Wind Farm

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This report examines the complex interactions between atmospheric stability and turbine-induced wakes on downwind turbine wind speed and power production at a West Coast North American multi-MW wind farm. Wakes are generated when the upwind flow field is distorted by the mechanical movement of the wind turbine blades. This has two consequences for downwind turbines: (1) the downwind turbine encounters wind flows with reduced velocity and (2) the downwind turbine encounters increased turbulence across multiple length scales via mechanical turbulence production by the upwind turbine. This increase in turbulence on top of ambient levels may increase aerodynamic fatigue loads on ... continued below

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Wharton, S; Lundquist, J K & Marjanovic, N January 25, 2012.

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This report examines the complex interactions between atmospheric stability and turbine-induced wakes on downwind turbine wind speed and power production at a West Coast North American multi-MW wind farm. Wakes are generated when the upwind flow field is distorted by the mechanical movement of the wind turbine blades. This has two consequences for downwind turbines: (1) the downwind turbine encounters wind flows with reduced velocity and (2) the downwind turbine encounters increased turbulence across multiple length scales via mechanical turbulence production by the upwind turbine. This increase in turbulence on top of ambient levels may increase aerodynamic fatigue loads on the blades and reduce the lifetime of turbine component parts. Furthermore, ambient atmospheric conditions, including atmospheric stability, i.e., thermal stratification in the lower boundary layer, play an important role in wake dissipation. Higher levels of ambient turbulence (i.e., a convective or unstable boundary layer) lead to higher turbulent mixing in the wake and a faster recovery in the velocity flow field downwind of a turbine. Lower levels of ambient turbulence, as in a stable boundary layer, will lead to more persistent wakes. The wake of a wind turbine can be divided into two regions: the near wake and far wake, as illustrated in Figure 1. The near wake is formed when the turbine structure alters the shape of the flow field and usually persists one rotor diameter (D) downstream. The difference between the air inside and outside of the near wake results in a shear layer. This shear layer thickens as it moves downstream and forms turbulent eddies of multiple length scales. As the wake travels downstream, it expands depending on the level of ambient turbulence and meanders (i.e., travels in non-uniform path). Schepers estimates that the wake is fully expanded at a distance of 2.25 D and the far wake region begins at 2-5 D downstream. The actual distance traveled before the wake recovers to its inflow velocity is dependent on the amount ambient turbulence, the amount of wind shear, and topographical and structural effects. The maximum velocity deficit is estimated to occur at 1-2 D but can be longer under low levels of ambient turbulence. Our understanding of turbine wakes comes from wind tunnel experiments, field experiments, numerical simulations, and from studies utilizing both experimental and modeling methods. It is well documented that downwind turbines in multi-Megawatt wind farms often produce less power than upwind turbine rows. These wake-induced power losses have been estimated from 5% to up to 40% depending on the turbine operating settings (e.g., thrust coefficient), number of turbine rows, turbine size (e.g., rotor diameter and hub-height), wind farm terrain, and atmospheric flow conditions (e.g., ambient wind speed, turbulence, and atmospheric stability). Early work by Elliott and Cadogan suggested that power data for different turbulent conditions be segregated to distinguish the effects of turbulence on wind farm power production. This may be especially important for downwind turbines within wind farms, as chaotic and turbulent wake flows increase stress on downstream turbines. Impacts of stability on turbine wakes and power production have been examined for a flat terrain, moderate size (43 turbines) wind farm in Minnesota and for an offshore, 80 turbine wind farm off the coast of Denmark. Conzemius found it difficult to distinguish wakes (i.e., downwind velocity deficits) when the atmosphere was convective as large amounts of scatter were present in the turbine nacelle wind speed data. This suggested that high levels of turbulence broke-up the wake via large buoyancy effects, which are generally on the order of 1 km in size. On the other hand, they found pronounced wake effects when the atmosphere was very stable and turbulence was either suppressed or the length scale was reduced as turbulence in this case was mechanically produced (i.e., friction forces). This led to larger reductions at downwind turbines and maximum velocity (power) deficits reached up to 50% (70%) during strongly stable conditions. At an offshore Danish wind farm, Hansen et al. found a strong negative correlation between power deficit and ambient turbulence intensity (i.e., atmospheric stability). Under convective conditions, when turbulence levels were relatively high, smallest power deficits were observed. Power deficits approaching 35 to 40% were found inside the wind farm during stable conditions.

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  • Report No.: LLNL-TR-524756
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • DOI: 10.2172/1035607 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1035607
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc835429

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  • January 25, 2012

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • Dec. 2, 2016, 2:51 p.m.

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Wharton, S; Lundquist, J K & Marjanovic, N. Synergistic Effects of Turbine Wakes and Atmospheric Stability on Power Production at an Onshore Wind Farm, report, January 25, 2012; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc835429/: accessed May 28, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.