Weather forecasters hunt down wind hotspots for turbines

Hunting down windy hotspots to put turbines can save wind energy firms millions of pounds. Experts say a change of just 1% in energy can change the value of an […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Hunting down windy hotspots to put turbines can save wind energy firms millions of pounds.

Experts say a change of just 1% in energy can change the value of an average wind project by $1.5 million (£900k).

That’s why some companies are beginning to pick their sites with care, using weather data stretching back 40 years to simulate weather patterns.

Much like oil and gas explorers have done for years, forecasters use supercomputers and models, according to Pascal Storck, Director of 3TIER, a company which creates wind-mapping software and is owned by Finnish weather balloon maker Vaisala.

He told ELN: “The last thing you want to do is build a wind farm at a location, invest several hundred million dollars and realise a couple years later, close by is a better wind resource.

“If you have an area in mind, say Turkey, if you’re a developer you want to start not with local folklore about the windiest place but a scientific approach… Just a few percent windier can have millions of dollars value.”

What makes for a better decision is using modern data archives. Some of that data comes from the twice-daily collection of all weather information around the planet.

These are contributed to by sensors such as the weather balloons which go up through atmosphere, measuring temperature, pressure and humidity to get a “global snapshot” of the weather, according to Mr Storck.

Once a few good sites are on the cards, weather forecasters even go hunting for the best wind spots in trucks with special equipment.

Mr Storck said: “You put in a remote sensor on the back of pick-up truck… shoot sound waves from ground up into air… to give an accurate idea of what the wind resource is.”

Not everyone has been savvy enough in the past to choose their sites so carefully, he added: “It’s not everyone. It’s a set of new technologies.

“In Europe and the United States the use of these technologies is more widespread than if you go to somewhere like China. China doesn’t use them at all, it’s just getting started.”