Characterization of atmospheric coherent structures and their impact on a utility-scale wind turbine

Aliza O Abraham, Jiarong Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Atmospheric turbulent velocity fluctuations are known to increase wind turbine structural loading and accelerate wake recovery, but the impact of vortical coherent structures in the atmosphere on wind turbines has not yet been evaluated. The current study uses flow imaging with natural snowfall with a field of view spanning the inflow and near wake. Vortical coherent structures with diameters of the order of 1 m are identified and characterized in the flow approaching a 2.5 MW wind turbine in the region spanning the bottom blade tip elevation to hub height. Their impact on turbine structural loading, power generation and wake behaviour are evaluated. Long coherent structure packets \over {\smash{\scriptstyle\sim}\vphantom{_x}}$}}\ }200\;\textrm{m)}$]]> are shown to increase fluctuating stresses on the turbine support tower. Large inflow vortices interact with the turbine blades, leading to deviations from the expected power generation. The sign of these deviations is related to the rotation direction of the vortices, with rotation in the same direction as the circulation on the blades leading to periods of power surplus, and the opposite rotation causing power deficit. Periods of power deficit coincide with wake contraction events. These findings highlight the importance of considering coherent structure properties when making turbine design and siting decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE5
StatePublished - Feb 18 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation CAREER award (NSF-CBET-1454259), Xcel Energy through the Renewable Development Fund (grant RD4-13) as well as IonE of University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:


  • atmospheric boundary layer
  • field-scale measurements
  • turbulent coherent structures
  • utility-scale wind turbine


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