The wind profile power law is a relationship between the wind speed at one height and the wind speed at another height. The power law is often used in wind power assessments1, 2 where wind speeds at the height of a wind turbine (about 50 meters or more) must be estimated from near surface wind observations (about 10 meters), or where wind speed data at various heights must be adjusted to a standard height3 prior to use.

Wind profiles are generated and used in a number of atmospheric pollution dispersion models.4 The wind profile of the atmospheric boundary layer (from the ground surface to around a height of 2000 meters) is generally logarithmic in nature and is best approximated using the log wind profile equation that accounts for surface roughness and atmospheric stability. The wind profile power law relationship is often used as a substitute for the log wind profile equation when surface roughness or stability information is not available.

The wind profile power law relationship is:
  • u/ur = (z/zr)α
where u is the wind speed (in meters per second) at height z (in meters), and ur is the known wind speed at a reference height zr. The exponent α is an empirically derived coefficient that varies dependent upon the stability of the atmosphere. For neutral stability conditions, α is approximately 1/7, or 0.143.

In order to estimate the wind speed at a certain height x, the relationship would be rearranged to:
  • ux = ur (zx / zr)α
The value of 0.143 for α is often assumed to be constant in wind resource assessments, because the differences between the two levels are not usually so great as to introduce substantial errors into the estimates (usually less than 50 m). However, when a constant exponent is used, it does not account for the roughness of the surface, the displacement of calm winds from the surface due to the presence of obstacles, or the stability of the atmosphere.5,6 In places where trees or structures impede the near-surface wind, the use of a constant 0.143 exponent may yield quite erroneous estimates, and the log wind profile equation is preferred. Even under neutral stability conditions, an exponent of 0.11 is more appropriate over open water (e.g., for offshore wind farms) than 0.143,7 which is more applicable over open land surfaces.

References

  1. Elliott, D.L., C.G. Holladay, W.R. Barchet, H.P. Foote, and W.F. Sandusky, 1986, Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Richland, WA. Wind Energy Resource Atlas of the United States
  2. Peterson, E.W. and J.P. Hennessey, Jr., 1978, On the use of power laws for estimates of wind power potential, J. Appl. Meteorology, Vol. 17, pp. 390-394
  3. Robeson, S.M., and Shein, K.A., 1997, Spatial coherence and decay of wind speed and power in the north-central United States, Physical Geography, Vol. 18, pp. 479-495
  4. Beychok, Milton R. (2005). Fundamentals Of Stack Gas Dispersion (4th Edition ed.). author-published. ISBN: 0-9644588-0-2
  5. Touma, J.S., 1977, Dependence of the wind profile power law on stability for various locations, J. Air Pollution Control Association, Vol. 27, pp. 863-866
  6. Counihan, J., 1975, Adiabatic atmospheric boundary layers: A review and analysis of data from the period 1880-1972, Atmospheric Environment, Vol.79, pp. 871-905
  7. Hsu, S.A., E.A. Meindl, and D.B. Gilhousen, 1994, Determining the power-law wind-profile exponent under near-neutral stability conditions at sea, J. Appl. Meteor., Vol. 33, pp. 757-765