Underperforming wind farms are putting some owners at risk, but Black & Veatch is helping to combat this issue by devoting more research and data into the site selection process.
“The answers are blowin’ in the wind.”
Almost 50 years ago, Bob Dylan wrote and sang those lyrics as an anthem for social change.
Today, the words still ring true, albeit in quite a different and literal way. The wind carries data – lots and lots of swirling data – that are invaluable in the proper siting of a wind farm.
Black & Veatch, in partnership with 3TIER and WindSim, can turn massive amounts of data into precise information about the preferred placement of a wind farm down to the very last turbine. This new Advanced Wind Resource Assessment Service can forecast the productivity of the site for the next 25 years.
“The tools from this partnership will give our clients more certainty in their wind farm energy production estimates,” said Sean Tilley, Black & Veatch Engineering Manager, Wind Services, “We’re reducing their project financial performance risk.”
An issue in the wind industry is that some wind farms are not generating their expected annual energy production, which leaves their owners at risk of not meeting their projected financial goals. “Predicted wind speeds are the most critical item in developing a wind farm, and every site is different,” said Scott Olson, Black & Veatch Senior Consultant in Renewables & Energy Efficiency.
Accurately Predicting Wind Speed
Risk reduction regarding accurately predicting wind speed takes time and effort. At a potential wind farm site, Black & Veatch will install a series of meteorological masts (met masts), which are antenna-like structures that range from 200 feet to 330 feet in height. The met masts contain transducers that measure weather data, such as wind speed and direction, air temperature and air pressure. Met masts are generally installed for more than a year to give them time to collect data to improve the accuracy of predicting the typical wind speed throughout the year.
Several years of actual weather data are also used to help improve the accuracy of predicting the available wind resources. 3TIER’s mesoscale numerical weather prediction models, distributed hydrological flow models, and satellite image processing techniques are used to understand long-term wind resource variability. 3TIER has capabilities to provide estimates of project-wide wind resources for periods of up to 40 years – far longer than the expected life of a wind farm and several times longer than other data providers.
“We can develop a data set for our wind resource model that is representative of the full life of a wind farm,” Tilley explained. “The data represent a wide variety of atmospheric conditions over several years for any spot on the planet. This historical analysis helps improve the accuracy of the predicted wind speed over the life of the project.”
Often, only airport data are used by other firms, which may be of a lesser quality. Once the met mast data have been collected, they are combined with the atmospheric database to adjust the model to a specific site.
Another part of Black & Veatch’s service is the development of a model of the three-dimensional wind flow across the prospective site using WindSim software. This model shows how the wind characteristically flows across any project site, which Tilley said is the key to coming up with the proper turbine layout and energy production estimates.
“Black & Veatch combines all this massive data and our wind turbine micro-siting experience to provide the recommended placement of a wind farm. This helps our clients maximize their wind farm energy production at the lowest possible cost,” Tilley said.
Black & Veatch can also provide engineering services to perform the planning, development, and detailed design and construction of the wind farms.
“Our Advanced Wind Resource Assessment Service is just the first phase of a typical wind farm project life cycle,” Tilley explained. “We can deliver a full project, and this is one of the tools that, combined with our other engineering services, creates value for our clients.”