Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 146, Issue 2, pp 161-179

First online:

Wind-Turbine Wakes in a Convective Boundary Layer: A Wind-Tunnel Study

  • Wei ZhangAffiliated withSaint Anthony Falls Laboratory, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota
  • , Corey D. MarkfortAffiliated withSaint Anthony Falls Laboratory, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota
  • , Fernando Porté-AgelAffiliated withWind Engineering and Renewable Energy Laboratory (WIRE), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), EPFL-ENAC-IIE-WIRE Email author 

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Thermal stability changes the properties of the turbulent atmospheric boundary layer, and in turn affects the behaviour of wind-turbine wakes. To better understand the effects of thermal stability on the wind-turbine wake structure, wind-tunnel experiments were carried out with a simulated convective boundary layer (CBL) and a neutral boundary layer. The CBL was generated by cooling the airflow to 12–15 °C and heating up the test section floor to 73–75 °C. The freestream wind speed was set at about 2.5 m s−1, resulting in a bulk Richardson number of −0.13. The wake of a horizontal-axis 3-blade wind-turbine model, whose height was within the lowest one third of the boundary layer, was studied using stereoscopic particle image velocimetry (S-PIV) and triple-wire (x-wire/cold-wire) anemometry. Data acquired with the S-PIV were analyzed to characterize the highly three-dimensional turbulent flow in the near wake (0.2–3.2 rotor diameters) as well as to visualize the shedding of tip vortices. Profiles of the mean flow, turbulence intensity, and turbulent momentum and heat fluxes were measured with the triple-wire anemometer at downwind locations from 2–20 rotor diameters in the centre plane of the wake. In comparison with the wake of the same wind turbine in a neutral boundary layer, a smaller velocity deficit (about 15 % at the wake centre) is observed in the CBL, where an enhanced radial momentum transport leads to a more rapid momentum recovery, particularly in the lower part of the wake. The velocity deficit at the wake centre decays following a power law regardless of the thermal stability. While the peak turbulence intensity (and the maximum added turbulence) occurs at the top-tip height at a downwind distance of about three rotor diameters in both cases, the magnitude is about 20 % higher in the CBL than in the neutral boundary layer. Correspondingly, the turbulent heat flux is also enhanced by approximately 25 % in the lower part of the wake, compared to that in the undisturbed CBL inflow. This study represents the first controlled wind-tunnel experiment to study the effects of the CBL on wind-turbine wakes. The results on decreased velocity deficit and increased turbulence in wind-turbine wakes associated with atmospheric thermal stability are important to be taken into account in the design of wind farms, in order to reduce the impact of wakes on power output and fatigue loads on downwind wind turbines.


Atmospheric boundary layer Convective boundary layer Thermal stability Wind-tunnel experiment Wind-turbine wakes