Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical and Biomechanical Engineering

Major Advisor

Paul J. Dawson, Ph.D.


High resolution atmospheric flow modeling using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has many applications in the wind energy industry. A well designed model can accurately calculate wind speed, direction, and turbulence at any point in a wind farm using data from a fixed location source. The model can extend point source data over an area of several square kilometers, or map terrain influenced microclimates using remote wind data. A local flow model is critical for wind resource site assessment, and for optimizing wind farm turbine layout for maximum power production. A CFD simulation of an operating wind farm, coupled with a local wind forecast, can increase accuracy of electric power generation forecasts, providing valuable information to electric grid managers and wind farm operators.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models solve the governing equations of fluid dynamics, providing a mathematical solution that describes turbulent fluid flow. Atmospheric CFD models are ideal for flows over complex terrain and they can simulate both shear and convective turbulence. Reliable CFD solutions require knowledge of atmospheric science, fluid dynamics and numerical solutions in addition to the CFD software. Reliable CFD models also require validation with recorded wind data. Because of the complexity of CFD, a methodology is needed for generating consistent models for a variety of locations and climates. This methodology establishes processes for importing surface map data, meshing, setting boundary conditions, running the model and analyzing results. In this thesis, mathematical theory is discussed along with methods for generating and meshing surfaces, handling wind data and validating results. This thesis describes model simulation over two locations and compares the results with published studies, and with available wind data. Parts of this research have been presented at the American Wind Energy Association WindPower conferences in 2008 and 2009. The CFD model project is also part of a Bonneville Power Administration sponsored Wind Energy Forecasting grant project under investigation by the Boise State University College of Engineering.