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Toward understanding the physical link between turbines and microclimate impacts from in situ measurements in a large wind farm

Abstract:
Recent wind farm studies have revealed elevated nighttime surface temperatures but have not validated physical mechanisms that create the observed effects. We report measurements of concurrent differences in surface wind speed, temperature, fluxes, and turbulence upwind and downwind of two turbine lines at the windward edge of a utility‐scale wind farm. On the basis of these measurements, we offer a conceptual model based on physical mechanisms of how wind farms affect their own microclimate. Periods of documented curtailment and zero‐power production of the wind farm offer useful opportunities to rigorously evaluate the microclimate impact of both stationary and operating turbines. During an 80 min nighttime wind farm curtailment, we measured abrupt and large changes in turbulent fluxes of momentum and heat leeward of the turbines. At night, wind speed decreases in the near wake when turbines are off but abruptly increases when turbine operation is resumed. Our measurements are compared with Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Terra and Aqua satellite measurements reporting wind farms to have higher nighttime surface temperatures. We demonstrate that turbine wakes modify surface fluxes continuously through the night, with similar magnitudes during the Terra and Aqua transit periods. Cooling occurs in the near wake and warming in the far wake when turbines are on, but cooling is negligible when turbines are off. Wind speed and surface stratification have a regulating effect of enhancing or decreasing the impact on surface microclimate due to turbine wake effects.

Daniel A. Rajewski
Eugene S. Takle
Russell K. Doorenbos

Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames
John H. Prueger
National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Ames, Iowa

Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Volume 121, Issue 22, 27 November 2016, Pages 13,392–13,414
doi: 10.1002/2016JD025297 [1]

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