Getting Offshore Wind Data Up To Speed

Maximizing wind speed is vital to ensuring the financial feasibility of offshore wind farms. Since wind energy potential is directly proportional to the cube of the wind speed, even the smallest differences in average wind speeds can have significant effects on power production. And with price tags in the billions of dollars, developers of offshore wind farms are literally banking on good wind data. A recent grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is funding research at the Stevens Institute of Technology to make measuring offshore wind speeds faster and cheaper.

Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is a remote sensing platform that measures atmospheric conditions by analyzing laser light shot from a control station. Using LIDAR technology to assess offshore wind resources currently requires researchers to use buoys or construct expensive offshore platforms. These can increase the cost of assessments, and (in the case of buoys moving up and down), have negative effects on performance.

offshore wind power

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To overcome these limitations, Thomas Herrington, associate professor of ocean engineering and assistant director of the Center for Maritime Systems, and his partners are using LIDAR technology that measures both vertically and horizontally. The idea is that researchers will be able to measure the wind field up to 20 miles offshore in three dimensions from a LIDAR station placed on a building along the coast. “This is very exciting research that has never been conducted at this scale or resolution before,” Herrington said.

The research is a collaboration between Stevens, Rutgers University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), industry partner Fishermen’s Energy, renewable energy consultancy GL Garrad Hassan, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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