March 30, 2023
Journal Article

Validation of Turbulence Intensity as Simulated by the Weather Research and Forecasting Model off the U.S. Northeast Coast


Turbulence intensity (TI) is often used to quantify the strength of turbulence in wind energy applications and serves as the basis of standards in wind turbine design. Thus, accurately characterizing the spatiotemporal variability of TI should lead to improved predictions of power production. Nevertheless, turbulence measurements over the ocean are far less prevalent than over land due to challenges in instrumental deployment, maintenance, and operation. Atmospheric models such as mesoscale (weather prediction) and large-eddy simulation (LES) models are commonly used in wind energy industry to assess the spatial variability of a given site. However, the TI derivation from atmospheric models have not been well examined. An algorithm is proposed in this study to realize online calculation of TI in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Simulated TI is divided into two components depending on scale, including sub-grid (parameterized based on turbulence kinetic energy (TKE)) and grid resolved. Sensitivity of sea surface temperature (SST) on simulated TI is also tested. An assessment is performed by using observations collected during a field campaign conducted from February to June 2020 near the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ’s Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory. Results show while simulated TKE is generally smaller than lidar-observed value, wind speed bias is usually small. Overall, this leads to a slight underestimation in sub-grid scale estimated TI. Improved SST representation subsequently reduces model biases in atmospheric stability as well as wind speed and sub-grid TI near the hub height. Large TI events in conjunction with mesoscale weather systems observed during the studied period pose a challenge to accurately estimate TI from models. Due to notable uncertainty in accurately simulating those events, it suggests summing up sub-grid and resolved TI may not be an ideal solution. Efforts in further improving skills in simulating mesoscale flow and cloud systems are necessary as the next steps.

Published: March 30, 2023


Tai S., L.K. Berg, R. Krishnamurthy, R.K. Newsom, and A. Kirincich. 2023. Validation of Turbulence Intensity as Simulated by the Weather Research and Forecasting Model off the U.S. Northeast Coast. Wind Energy Science 8, no. 3:433–448. PNNL-SA-177603. doi:10.5194/wes-8-433-2023