Unraveling Wind’s Dance

By Kimberly Mann Bruch, SDSC
Wind turbines stand tall in the foreground, with an orange and blue sunset in the background.

Researchers at the University of Memphis have recently used ACCESS allocations on the Anvil supercomputer at Purdue University to uncover new insights into the complex dynamics of wind turbine wake meandering – shedding light on the mechanisms behind this phenomenon that impacts wind energy production.

Wind turbine wake meandering refers to the coherent oscillation of the far wake behind wind turbines, which can significantly affect the performance of downstream turbines. Several research studies have suggested that large atmospheric boundary layer fluctuations and smaller turbine-scale vorticity dynamics may play separate roles in initiating this phenomenon. Recently, Daniel Foti and a team at the University of Memphis used advanced techniques – including large-eddy simulation on Anvil – to investigate the triadic interactions and energy transfers between different scales to assess what scales contribute to wind turbine wake meandering. Specifically, they utilized bispectral analyses, which examine the correlations between pairs of frequencies or wavenumbers and their sum. 

“We used our ACCESS allocations on Anvil to simulate wind turbine operations with large-eddy simulation with varying atmosphere boundary layer conditions, specifically different incoming length-scales distributions,” said University of Memphis Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Daniel Foti. “We employed two cutting-edge multi-dimensional modal decomposition methods – the scale-specific energy transfer method and bispectral mode decomposition – to calculate the bispectrum. Our analysis revealed significant interactions between upwind conditions and wake meandering, generating a broad range of energy scales within the wake.”

A scientific visualization of the breakdown of wind turbine.
The wind turbine induces vortex features such as tip vortices and the hub vortex. These break down as wake meandering (WM) commences. The thick black line shows the centerline of the meandering wake.

Foti explained that their findings demonstrate a strong correlation between the coherent kinetic energy associated with these interactions and the occurrence of wake meandering. By better understanding the underlying dynamics, the team next aims to work with experimentalists to develop strategies to mitigate the impacts of wake meandering and optimize wind farm performance.

“This research taking place at Memphis using ACCESS allocations at Purdue could lead to more efficient wind farm designs and improved energy output,” said John Towns, principal investigator for the ACCESS Coordination Office. “Ultimately, harnessing this knowledge could lead to more efficient and sustainable wind power generation – contributing to global efforts to combat climate change and transition towards renewable energy sources.”

The study was recently published in the journal entitled Theoretical and Applied Mechanics Letters.

Project Details

Resource Provider Institution(s): Rosen Center for Advanced Computing at Purdue (RCAC)
Affiliations: University of Memphis
Funding Agency: NSF
Grant or Allocation Number(s): PHY220038

The science story featured here was enabled by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s ACCESS program, which is supported by National Science Foundation grants #2138259, #2138286, #2138307, #2137603, and #2138296.

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