Meteorological towers provide a large quantity of raw data, which needs to be analyzed to assess the wind resources of a site. Desired information is frequently extrapolated from a data set, often with help from software including Windagrapher, WindFarmer, WindPRO, or Excel. This information then provides vital information for determining the financial viability of a potential wind farm.
“Towers over 60 meters in height require a special permit from the Federal Aviation Administration, so wind energy is normally assessed between 50 and 60 meters,” says Diane Reinebach, Senior Energy Specialist for RMT, Inc. “That data is then extrapolated up to 80 meters, which is the hub height of a wind turbine.”
Once a suitable wind resource is determined, turbine selection and layout can occur. Turbines are designed for different wind conditions, so careful selection is important to maximize the energy output of a wind farm. The layout of a project must account for numerous factors to optimize productivity, minimize construction costs, shorten the lag time of a project, and adhere to environmental restrictions.
“We develop a layout for wind farms based on many variables including characteristics of the turbine, the height, the blade and site conditions,” says Reinebach. “We do that as a team effort. It isn’t just a meteorological study. The idea is to maximize energy production based on construction costs, and various setbacks for occupied residences, roads, non-participating landowners, and environmentally sensitive areas.”
Setbacks vary by location and require a specified minimum distance between a given landmark and a wind turbine. Some software can take such considerations into account when preparing turbine layout.
A job in the energy assessment field draws on a variety of skills, according to Reinebach. She finds her background in mechanical engineering helpful for understanding turbine output and wind loads that affect structural integrity of a turbine. Her 15 years of experience working with an electric utility boosts her understanding of customer needs. Computer skills, a meteorological background, an ability to work with a large data set, and an understanding of fluid dynamics, are all beneficial.
Image credit: Windographer (upper) and WindFarmer (lower)
Sarah Lozanova is passionate about the new green economy and is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Energy International Quarterly, ThinkGreen.com, Triple Pundit, Green Business Quarterly, Renewable Energy World, and Green Business Quarterly. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative.