WindQuest: the Engine to Power Lean Wind Farm Development
Spouting conceptual platitiudes is the easy bit, but how do we execute on being lean? And if its such a good idea, why are traditional project cycles so far from lean? What’s standing in the way?
One major obstacle is that tools the industry relies on are bloated and cumbersome. Lean wind farm development is about chipping away at block of marble, in a quick nimble manner to reveal (hopefully) the adonis within. The existing tools are unwieldy angle-grinders, designed for lopping off huge lumps of stone in one go. Sometimes that’s necessary, but often it’s heavy handed and coarse.
This is not an easy problem to solve. Being lean implies that sometimes you need something quick and dirty to give you confidence to move on, but at other times it’s necessary to dig deep and fully map out a risk factor before committing further resources to a project.
Tools have to be a number of things:
- Lightweight and flexible
- Modular and interconnected
- Swift and powerful
- Comprehensive and integrated
These are all things that the legacy tools in the industry are not. The average developer looking to run their own analyses requires a range of expensive licences from a range of poorly integrated tools each requiring considerable expertise. It’s a huge barrier to entry to nimble, lean development.
The best time to put a site out of its misery is before development even starts. Later in the development cycle project capacity, turbine type, grid connection strategy and micrositing can all be reviewed and revised. The one thing you can’t change about a site is the site itself. Smart site selection and screening is the single biggest factor to improve the hit rates of sites becoming wind farms.
Everything we do to throw extra effort at the prospecting warrants a separate article. But, to give a taster:
- Blending of multiple mesoscale maps to improve accuracy
- Mapping of 30+ development constraints
- Analysis of high-resolution terrain data to map wind exposure
- Dynamic and multi-dimensional scoring and ranking approach
Wind is, unsurprisingly, the single biggest risk factor for a wannabe site. Not simply because of its importance to the viability of a project, but because of the challenge of understanding it. The smartest of acrobatics with mesoscale maps will at best get you within 0.5m/s of the true wind resource on a site. To make the final step the only option is a measurement campaign.
When being lean, it’s not enough to fire and forget about measurements for 12 months. We need to make use of the gentle accumulation of data. WindCheck, our wind data platform, allows us not just to monitor the health of measurement systems, but to be regularly updating the long-term, hub height opinion of wind resources at the site.
A single swallow doesn’t make a summer. A single windy location doesn’t make a wind farm. There will be dozens of turbines each thirsty for wind, so we have to understand the variation of wind across a site.
Richard Feynman once famously said “Turbulence is the most important unsolved problem of classic physics”. That a wind farm’s fuel is fundamentally not fully resolvable is one of the basic challenges (and joys) of wind farming. Every wind map has to make compromises to close the loop, and small increases in accuracy require hugely disproportional amounts of computational power.
This is a problem when you’re being lean. We can’t just throw CFD at every possible site. We need proportionate force. WindScribe, our wind mapping tool, absorbs wind maps from multiple sources, multiple mast measurements to calibrate, validate and blend all data into a single opinion. It’s inherently scalable – as development progresses more sophisticated maps and more wind data can be used to constantly improve the accuracy of the outputs.
Douglas Adams once imagined a planet where the only viable businesses were shoe shops. Shoes come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, styles materials and purposes and yet never quite do any single job comfortably. The shoe event horizon is passed when consumers are trapped in an endless cycle of buying not quite the right shoes.
Wind turbines are similar. OEMs will offer a project a combination of generator size, rotor size, hub heights, survivability classe etc. that’s guaranteed to be not quite perfect for your site. Choosing what to and what not to compromise on is a huge challenge in turbine selection. Can’t we just try every shoe for size?
With our energy mapping tool, we can do just that. We’ve designed the tool and its interface with the wind data and mapping processes to be flexible and seamless. Want to run AEPs for 10 turbine types each at a couple of different hub heights before thinning the field? Sure, let’s do it.
WindQuest is what we call the collection of tools we use for lean wind farm design. They’re designed to be quick to run when you just want to test an idea here, or a thought there. But when you need an answer you can rely on, they can step up to the plate.
Here’s Jerry, the Founder of Wind Pioneers. He started Wind Pioneers with a drive to improve the way wind farms are created. He’s a little embarrassed about how much time he spends thinking about wind farming, and it’s certainly a dangerous topic of conversation to get him started on unless you have a lot of time on your hands. When he gets some time off, he enjoys travelling to new corners of the planet (though is often guilty of being on the lookout for windy sites in exotic places when he’s meant to be on holiday…)