Outsmarting the Wind
Source: National Science Foundation (12/22/10)
"Meteorological equipment could boost wind power efficiency."
"We know that the wind will blow, but the real challenge is to know when and how much," said atmospheric scientist Larry Berg. "This project takes an interesting approach—adapting an established technology for a new use—to find a reliable way to measure winds and improve wind power forecasts."
Berg and Rob Newsom, both researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, are using a variety of meteorological equipment to measure winds high up into the air—about 350 feet, the average height of turbine hubs—and get a better reading on how winds behave up there.
Wind measurements are typically made much lower—at about 30 feet high—for weather monitoring purposes. Wind power companies do measure winds higher up, but that information is usually kept proprietary. PNNL's findings will be available to all online.
The study's findings could also provide more accurate wind predictions because of its field location—a working wind farm. The equipment is being erected on and near a radio tower near the 300-megawatt Stateline Wind Energy Center, a wind power project that runs along the eastern Washington-Oregon border. Any wind power company could use the study's findings to improve how sites are chosen for wind farms and how those farms are operated.
The equipment started collecting measurements in November. Berg and Newsom will continue gathering measurements for about nine months, or through this summer. The period will allow the researchers to draw a more complete and accurate picture of how wind behaves at turbine height. The period represents the windiest months for the area.
"The goal here is to help everyone—not just one group—better understand wind's behavior and ultimately improve our use of it as a renewable power source," Newsom said.