The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Standard 61400-1 for the design of wind turbines does not explicitly address site-specific conditions associated with anomalous atmospheric events or conditions. Examples of off-standard atmospheric conditions include thunderstorm downbursts, hurricanes, tornadoes, low-level jets, etc. The simulation of thunderstorm downbursts and associated loads on a utility-scale wind turbine is the focus of this study. Since the problem has not received sufficient attention, especially in terms of design, we thus focus in this paper on practical aspects. A wind field model that incorporates component non-turbulent and turbulent parts is described and employed in inflow simulations. The non-turbulent part is based on an available analytical model with some modifications, while the turbulent part is simulated as a stochastic process using standard turbulence power spectral density functions and coherence functions whose defining parameters are related to the downburst characteristics such as the storm translation velocity. Available information on recorded downbursts is used to define two storm scenarios that are studied. Rotor loads are generated using stochastic simulation of the aeroelastic response of a model of a utility-scale 5-MW turbine. An illustrative single storm simulation and the associated turbine response are used to discuss load characteristics and to highlight storm-related and environmental parameters of interest. Extensive simulations for two downbursts are then conducted while varying the storm’s location and track relative to the turbine. Results suggest that wind turbine yaw and pitch control systems clearly influence overall system response. Results also highlight the important effects of both the turbulence as well as the downburst mean wind profiles on turbine extreme loads.
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