Volume 3, issue 2 | Copyright
Wind Energ. Sci., 3, 833-843, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research articles 02 Nov 2018

Research articles | 02 Nov 2018

Do wind turbines pose roll hazards to light aircraft?

Jessica M. Tomaszewski1, Julie K. Lundquist1,2, Matthew J. Churchfield2, and Patrick J. Moriarty2 Jessica M. Tomaszewski et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0311, USA
  • 2National Wind Technology Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO 80401-3305, USA

Abstract. Wind energy accounted for 5.6% of all electricity generation in the United States in 2016. Much of this development has occurred in rural locations, where open spaces favorable for harnessing wind also serve general aviation airports. As such, nearly 40% of all United States wind turbines exist within 10km of a small airport. Wind turbines generate electricity by extracting momentum from the atmosphere, creating downwind wakes characterized by wind-speed deficits and increased turbulence. Recently, the concern that turbine wakes pose hazards for small aircraft has been used to limit wind-farm development. Herein, we assess roll hazards to small aircraft using large-eddy simulations (LES) of a utility-scale turbine wake. Wind-generated lift forces and subsequent rolling moments are calculated for hypothetical aircraft transecting the wake in various orientations. Stably and neutrally stratified cases are explored, with the stable case presenting a possible worst-case scenario due to longer-persisting wakes permitted by lower ambient turbulence. In both cases, only 0.001% of rolling moments experienced by hypothetical aircraft during down-wake and cross-wake transects lead to an increased risk of rolling.

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Short summary
Wind energy development has increased rapidly in rural locations of the United States, areas that also serve general aviation airports. The spinning rotor of a wind turbine creates an area of increased turbulence, and we question if this turbulent air could pose rolling hazards for light aircraft flying behind turbines. We analyze high-resolution simulations of wind flowing past a turbine to quantify the rolling risk and find that wind turbines pose no significant roll hazards to light aircraft.
Wind energy development has increased rapidly in rural locations of the United States, areas...