To main content

Analyzing complex wake-terrain interactions and its implications on wind-farm performance


Rotating wind turbine blades generate complex wakes involving vortices (helical tip-vortex, root-vortex etc.).These wakes are regions of high velocity deficits and high turbulence intensities and they tend to degrade the performance of down-stream turbines. Hence, a conservative inter-turbine distance of up-to 10 times turbine diameter (10D) is sometimes used in wind-farm layout (particularly in cases of flat terrain). This ensures that wake-effects will not reduce the overall wind-farm performance, but this leads to larger land footprint for establishing a wind-farm. In-case of complex-terrain, within a short distance (say 10D) itself, the nearby terrain can rise in altitude and be high enough to influence the wake dynamics. This wake-terrain interaction can happen either (a) indirectly, through an interaction of wake (both near tip vortex and far wake large-scale vortex) with terrain induced turbulence (especially, smaller eddies generated by small ridges within the terrain) or (b) directly, by obstructing the wake-region partially or fully in its flow-path. Hence, enhanced understanding of wake- development due to wake-terrain interaction will help in wind farm design. To this end the current study involves: (1) understanding the numerics for successful simulation of vortices, (2) understanding fundamental vortex-terrain interaction mechanism through studies devoted to interaction of a single vortex with different terrains, (3) relating influence of vortex-terrain interactions to performance of a wind-farm by studying a multi-turbine wind-farm layout under different terrains. The results on interaction of terrain and vortex has shown a much faster decay of vortex for complex terrain compared to a flatter-terrain. The potential reasons identified explaining the observation are (a) formation of secondary vortices in flow and its interaction with the primary vortex and (b) enhanced vorticity diffusion due to increased terrain-induced turbulence. The implications of this vortex-terrain interactions on wind-farm performance is observed by comparing two LES simulations of a multi-turbine wind-farm layout (in real actual complex terrain and a made-up flat terrain scenario) with the observed annual power data at the actual wind-farm. The comparison reveals drop in power production due to terrain and wake effects for flatter terrain case. The insights from this study can serve as a step towards enhancing wake-dissipation through either artificial obstruction or artificial terrain modifications.


Academic article




  • SINTEF Digital / Mathematics and Cybernetics



Published in

Journal of Physics: Conference Series (JPCS)




IOP Publishing





View this publication at Cristin