April 17, 2024

Assessing Impacts of Waves on Hub-Height Winds off the U.S. West Coast Using Lidar Buoys and Coupled Modeling Approaches


Given the importance of offshore wind energy development to the U.S. clean energy targets, it is vital to be able to characterize the wind resource in that environment accurately. Toward that end, two Bureau of Ocean Energy Management buoys equipped with Doppler lidar are being maintained by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf of the Department of Energy and deployed to regions of potential offshore wind development. In addition to standard meteorological and oceanographic measurements, the buoys document the wind profile between about 40 m and 250 m above the sea surface through Doppler lidar retrievals. After a multiyear deployment of two buoys along the U.S. East Coast, the buoys were redeployed to the U.S. West coast from 2020 – 2022 to locations near the Humboldt and Morro Bay lease areas. The buoys provide nearly continuous, multiyear datasets that can be used to evaluate predictions of hub-height (~100 m) wind speed for standard atmospheric models in the region. In the absence of measurements at the study site, offshore wind developers rely on model-based data to assess site conditions. Potential sources of model error in this environment include under-resolution or misrepresentation of coastal topographically forced flows, marine boundary layer dynamics and the evolution of their associated cloud and turbulence fields, the role of upwelling and other currents on surface heat fluxes into the boundary layer, and the impact of wave fields on surface momentum fluxes and thus the wind speed profile. In particular, most predictive models of wind speed do not predict wave fields at all, relying on parameterizations to represent their effects. In thus study, we focus on evaluating the role of wind / wave interactions on modeled hub-height wind speed and error by using the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere–Wave–Sediment–Transport Modeling System to capture two-way interactions between an atmospheric model (Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF)) and a wave model (WAVEWATCHIII (WW3)) and compare to both stand-alone WRF and one-way coupled WRF / WW3 configurations. Our approach is similar to that used in Gaudet et al. (2022) to evaluate wind / wave coupling over the U.S. East Coast, but applied to the very different environment of the U.S. West Coast. We show examples for two cases, a cold-season frontal case and a warm-season low-level jet case. We find that wind / wave coupling makes little impact on model error for these cases at the location of the lidar buoys, for which other misrepresentations of model physics seems to be responsible for model-observation discrepancies. However, domain-wide evaluations, which also make use of the National Buoy Data Center network, show that a two-way coupling approach is less prone to systematic errors in the hub-height wind field than the one-way coupled approach. WRF resolution of kilometer-scale or less is needed to properly capture the sharp wind speed gradients that can be found along the coastline, and WW3 simulations driven by the downscaled WRF produce better bulk and spectral wave fields when compared to observations. Implications of the results for wind resource characterization are then discussed.

Published: April 17, 2024


Gaudet B.J., G. Garcia Medina, R. Krishnamurthy, L.M. Sheridan, Z. Yang, R.K. Newsom, and M.S. Pekour, et al. 2024. Assessing Impacts of Waves on Hub-Height Winds off the U.S. West Coast Using Lidar Buoys and Coupled Modeling Approaches Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.