Wind-farm mesh refinement for Actuator Line simulation using Percept

This tutorial demonstrates the workflow for refining ABL meshes for use with actuator line simulations using the Percept mesh adaptivity tool. We will start with the precursor mesh and add nested zones of refinement around turbines of interest so that the wakes are captured with adequate resolution necessary to predict the impact on downstream turbine performance. We will perform the following steps

  1. Use nalu_preprocess to tag elements within the mesh that must be refined. In this exercise, we will perform two levels of refinement where the second level is nested within the first refinement zone. This step creates a turbine_refinement_field, an element field, in the Exodus database. The refinement field is a scalar with a value ranging between 0 and 1. We will use this field as a threshold to control the regions where the refinement is applied by the mesh_adapt utility in Percept.

  2. Invoke Percept’s mesh_adapt utility twice to perform two levels of refinement. Each invocation will use the turbine_refinement_field, created in the previous step, to determine the region where refinement is applied, the threshold is changed using YAML-formatted input files to mesh_adapt during each call.


To complete this tutorial you will need the Exodus mesh (abl_1x1x1_10_mesh.exo) generated in the the previous tutorial. You will also need the input file for nalu_preprocess (abl_refine.yaml)

Tag mesh regions for refinement

In this step we will use nalu_preprocess to create a refinement field that will be used by mesh_adapt to determine which elements are selected for refinement. The input file that performs this action is shown below

    fluid_parts: [ fluid ]
    write_percept_files: true
    percept_file_prefix: adapt
    search_tolerance: 11.0

    turbine_diameters:  80.0
    turbine_heights: 70.0
      - [ 550.0, 350.0, 0.0 ]
      - [ 400.0, 500.0, 0.0 ]
      type: wind_direction
      wind_direction: 245.0
      - [ 4.0, 4.0, 2.0, 2.0 ]
      - [ 3.0, 3.0, 1.2, 1.2 ]

The mesh blocks targeted for refinement is provided as a list to the fluid_parts parameter (line 2), turbine_locations list the base locations of the turbines in the wind farm that are being simulated, refinement_levels contain a list of length equal to the number of nested refinement levels. Each entry in this list contains an array of four non-dimensional lengths: the upstream, downstream, lateral, and vertical extent of the refinement zones (as a multiple of rotor diameters) with respect to the rotation center of the turbine. The orientation of the refinement boxes is determined by the parameters provided within the orientation sub-dictionary. In the current example, the boxes will be oriented along the wind direction (\(245^\circ\)) to match the ABL wind direction at hub-height used in the previous tutorial.


It is recommended that the search_tolerance parameter in mesh_local_refinement section be set slightly larger than the coarset mesh resolution in the base ABL mesh chosen for refinement. This prevents jagged boundaries around the refinement zones as a result of roundoff and truncation errors. In our current example, this parameter was set to 11m based on the fact that the base mesh has a uniform resolution of 10m.

The output of nalu_preprocess is shown below

$ nalu_preprocess -i abl_refine.yaml

Nalu Preprocessing Utility
Input file: abl_refine.yaml
Found 1 tasks
    - mesh_local_refinement

Performing metadata updates...
Metadata update completed
Reading mesh bulk data... done.

Begin task: mesh_local_refinement
Processing percept field: turbine_refinement_field
Writing percept input files...
Sample percept command line:
mesh_adapt --refine=DEFAULT --input_mesh=mesh0.e --output_mesh=mesh1.e --RAR_info=adapt1.yaml
End task: mesh_local_refinement

All tasks completed; writing mesh...
Exodus results file: mesh0.e

Memory usage: Avg:  723.312 MB; Min:  723.312 MB; Max:  723.312 MB

Refine using Percept

After executing nalu_preprocess we should have mesh0.e, the Exodus database used as input for mesh_adapt and two YAML files adapt1.yaml and adapt2.yaml that contain the thresholds for each level of refinement. To invoke Percept in serial mode, execute the following command

# Refine the first level
mesh_adapt --refine=DEFAULT --input_mesh=mesh0.e --output_mesh=mesh1.e --RAR_info=adapt1.yaml --progress_meter=1
# Refine the second level
mesh_adapt --refine=DEFAULT --input_mesh=mesh1.e --output_mesh=mesh2.e --RAR_info=adapt2.yaml --progress_meter=1

After successful execution of the two invocations of mesh_adapt, the refined mesh for use with actuator line wind farm simulations is saved in mesh2.e. Percept-based refinement creates pyramid and tetrahedral elements at the refinement interfaces. These additional elements are added to new mesh blocks (parts in STK parlance) that must be included in the Nalu input file for simulation. Use ncdump (see previous tutorial) to examine the names of the new mesh blocks created by Percept.

$ ncdump -v eb_names mesh2.e

 eb_names =
  "fluid.pyramid_5._urpconv.Tetrahedron_4._urpconv" ;

For large meshes, parallel execution of Percept’s mesh_adapt utility is recommended. A sample command line is shown below

# Example mesh_adapt invocation in parallel.
mpiexec -np ${NPROCS} mesh_adapt \
             --refine=DEFAULT \
             --RAR_info=adapt1.yaml \
             --progress_meter=1 \
             --input_mesh=mesh0.e \
             --output_mesh=mesh1.e \
             --ioss_read_options="auto-decomp:yes" \

We pass auto-join:yes to IOSS write options so that the final mesh is combined for subsequent use with a different number of MPI ranks with Nalu.

Troubleshooting tips

  • Percept mesh_adapt will hang if it runs out of memory without any error message. The user must ensure that enough memory is available to perform the refinements. Parallel execution on a larger number of nodes is the best solution to this problem.

  • Percept creates long part names for the new mesh blocks it generates. These names are sometimes longer than the 32 characters allowed by SEACAS utilities for Exodus strings. Exodus mesh reading process will automatically truncate these names during read, but STK will throw an error if the full name is used to refer to the part. The user must take care to truncate the names to 32 characters in the Nalu input file.

  • Percept declares additional parts of form <BASE_PART>.pyramid_5._urpconv.Tetrahedron_4._urpconv in anticipation of possible refinement of pyramid elements into pyramids and tetrahedrons. However, the nested refinement strategy does not result in pyramids being refined and, therefore, this part remains empty. Currently, SEACAS and STK will throw an error if the user attempts to include this part in the Nalu input file during simulations.

  • When using mesh_adapt in parallel, appropriate IOSS read/write options must be specified to allow automatic decomposition of an undecomposed mesh and subsequent rejoin after parallel exection. Failure to provide appropriate options will lead to error during execution of mesh_adapt.