Analyzing the Effects of Atmospheric Turbulent Fluctuations on the Wake Structure of Wind Turbines and Their Blade Vibrational Dynamics

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In recent trends, a rising demand for renewable energy has driven wind turbines to larger proportions, where lighter blade designs are often adopted to reduce the costs associated with logistics and production. This causes modern utility-scale wind turbine blades to be inherently more flexible, and their amplified aeroelastic sensitivity results in complex multi-physics reactions to variant atmospheric conditions, including dynamic patterns of aerodynamic loading at the rotor and vortex structure evolutions within the wake. In this paper, we analyze the influence of inflow variance for wind turbines with large, flexible rotors through simulations of the National Rotor Testbed (NRT) turbine, located at Sandia National Labs’ Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) facility in Lubbock, Texas. The Common Ordinary Differential Equation Framework (CODEF) modeling suite is used to simulate wind turbine aeroelastic oscillatory behavior and wind farm vortex wake interactions for a range of flexible NRT blade variations, operating in differing conditions of variant atmospheric flow. CODEF solutions of turbine operation in Steady-In-The-Average (SITA) wind conditions are compared to SITA wind conditions featuring a controlled gust-like pulse overimposed, to isolate the effects of typical wind fluctuations. Finally, simulations of realistic time-varying wind conditions from SWiFT meteorological tower measurements are compared to the solutions of SITA wind conditions. These increasingly complex atmospheric inflow variations are tested to show the differing effects evoked by various patterns of spatiotemporal atmospheric flow fluctuations. An analysis is presented for solutions of wind turbine aeroelastic response and vortex wake evolution, to elucidate the consequences of variant inflow, which pertain to wind turbine dynamics at an individual and farm-collective scale. The comparisons of simulated farm flow for SITA and measured fluctuating wind conditions show that certain regions of the wake contain up to a 12% difference in normalized axial velocity, due to the introduction of wind fluctuations. The findings of this study prove valuable for practical applications in wind farm control and optimization strategies, with particular significance for modern utility-scale wind power plants operating in variant atmospheric conditions.

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