Speed and direction shear in the stable nocturnal boundary layer

Kevin Walter, Christopher C. Weiss, Andrew H.P. Swift, Jamie Chapman, Neil D. Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Numerous previous works have shown that vertical shear in wind speed and wind direction exist in the atmospheric boundary layer. In this work, meteorological forcing mechanisms, such as the Ekman spiral, thermal wind, and inertial oscillation, are discussed as likely drivers of such shears in the statically stable environment. Since the inertial oscillation, the Ekman spiral, and statically stable conditions are independent of geography, potentially significant magnitudes of speed and direction shear are hypothesized to occur to some extent at any inland site in the world. The frequency of occurrence of non-trivial magnitudes of speed and direction shear are analyzed from observation platforms in Lubbock, Texas and Goodland, Indiana. On average, the correlation between speed and direction shear magnitudes and static atmospheric stability are found to be very high. Moreover, large magnitude speed and direction shears are observed in conditions with relatively high hub-height wind speeds. The effects of speed and direction shear on wind turbine power performance are tested by incorporating a simple steady direction shear profile into the fatigue analysis structures and turbulence simulation code from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In general, the effect on turbine power production varies with the magnitude of speed and direction shear across the turbine rotor, with the majority of simulated conditions exhibiting power loss relative to a zero shear baseline. When coupled with observational data, the observed power gain is calculated to be as great as 0.5% and depletion as great as 3% relative to a no shear baseline. The average annual power change at Lubbock is estimated to be -0.5%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110131-110137
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Solar Energy Engineering, Transactions of the ASME
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Direction shear
  • Ekman spiral
  • FAST
  • Inertial oscillation
  • Low-level jet
  • Power production
  • Speed shear
  • Stable boundary layer
  • Tall-tower observations
  • Thermal wind


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