Could Crop Roughness Impact the Wind Resource at Agriculturally Productive Wind Farm Sites?

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:15 AM
Brian J Vanderwende and Julie K Lundquist, U. of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States
The high concentration of both large-scale agriculture and wind power production in the United States Midwest region raises new questions concerning the interaction of the two activities. For instance, it is known from internal boundary layer theory that changes in the roughness of the land-surface resulting from crop choices could modify the momentum field aloft. Upward propagation of such an effect might impact the properties of the winds encountered by modern turbines, which typically span a layer from about 40 to 120 meters above the surface. As direct observation of such interaction would require impractical interference in the planting schedules of farmers, we use numerical modeling to quantify the magnitude of crop-roughness effects.

To simulate a collocated farm and turbine array, we use version 3.4.1 of the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF). The hypothetical farm is inserted near the real location of the 2013 Crop Wind Energy Experiment (CWEX). Reanalyses provide representative initial and boundary conditions. A month-long period spanning August 2013 is used to evaluate the differences in flows above corn (maize) and soybean crops at the mature, reproductive stage. Simulations are performed comparing the flow above each surface regime, both in the absence and presence of a wind farm, which consists of a parameterized 11x11 array of 1.8 MW Vestas V90 turbines.

Appreciable differences in rotor-layer wind speeds emerge. The use of soybeans results in an increase in wind speeds and a corresponding reduction in rotor-layer shear when compared to corn. Despite the turbulent nature of flow within a wind farm, high stability reduces the impact of crop roughness on the flow aloft, particularly in the upper portion of the rotor disk. We use these results to estimate the economic impact of crop selection on wind power producers.