Making money from wind energy is like digging for gold. Just as it takes time and effort to search for gold deposits, one must search for consistently windy places and monitor them, to make sure wind continuously blows above 9mph (miles per hour), before installing a wind turbine and claiming profits.
But a location with 9mph average yearly wind speed will just barely pay for your wind turbine equipment. To make profit, wind turbines should be installed where wind steadily blows at wind speeds over 20mph on the average. Places like that are scarce just like places of gold deposits. Even then, the investment in a wind turbine is large and profit will only come after years of maintenance, free operation of your wind turbine, electrical generator and all the associated electronics.
The golden rule of the wind energy business is location just as in the retail industry. Choosing where to place a wind turbine is just as important as choosing where to place your store. In the end, it comes down to sound business sense.
There is no bigger enemy to wind energy than an improperly placed wind turbine. If you are planning a wind turbine, you are probably not in the business of wind energy to lose…if you lose, the environment will suffer. Badly placed wind turbine is damaging to earth due to the wasted energy from its production and manufacture. If a wind turbine is not profitable, it is more damaging to the environment, than not installing a wind turbine at all. What is worse, it creates bad publicity and a bad reputation for all well placed, highly profitable and environmentally friendly wind energy projects.
In the long term, wind energy is stable, yet on a monthly basis it can vary significantly. Short term wind site assessment is highly discouraged, as it can lead to misleading information and it is also one of the main drawbacks of wind power and currently limiting its widespread use. Short term variability, limits use of wind power to about 20% of total electricity production and requires countries to build overcapacity to be able to overcome low wind and high electrical use periods (i.e. hot humid summer days with low wind conditions – air conditioning). 20% good wind is 80% bad wind…for your wind turbine.
Wind is everywhere, but your focus should be on strong stable wind for our wind turbine. Wind turbine placement and proper weather station placement are similar in many ways. Meteorological sensor placement, just like wind turbine placement, strongly depends on local obstructions to wind and clean airflow. Additionally, proper weather station placement also depends on local vegetation as air humidity readings can vary significantly between placement near wetlands or largely paved areas.
Approximately 20% of locations will contain 80% of wind energy. Use a wind map or your experience to pick the most plausible locations of high wind speed.
Measure multiple locations simultaneously. Place anemometers or weather stations with accurate wind speed sensors simultaneously in multiple locations for a minimum of 6 months, preferably for a year.
Compare measurements relative to each other to find the best location for your wind turbine, weather station and other meteorological instruments.
When limited to about 20% of the total grid capacity of electrical energy production, wind power seldom creates problems (Holttinen, et al., 2006), but as its proportion increases, brownouts and power outages can occur. Power management techniques as listed below can eliminate or significantly reduce these potential problems:
- Forecasting – accurate forecasts for energy usage based on short term weather forecasting also known as Now-Casting.
- Excess capacity storage such as pumped-storage hydroelectric dams.
- Geographically distributed turbines.
- Ability to export and import power from neighboring electrical grids.
- Reducing electrical usage when wind production is low.
One of the major tools used to alleviate potential low power situations like brownouts and blackouts is the use of reliable short-term weather forecasting – NowCasting. It allows electrical networks to plan ahead for upcoming low power or extreme weather situations. It enables preemptive redirection of electricity to potential low power areas to eliminate or greatly limit electrical grid power fluctuations. It is usually based on data from a high density grid of accurate weather stations from which accurate weather information can be drawn and extrapolated a few hours or up to a day into future for a very accurate local weather prediction.
Reference: Hannele Holttinen, et al. (September 2006) “Design and Operation of Power Systems with Large Amounts of Wind Power”, IEA Wind Summary Paper” (PDF). Global Wind Power Conference 18–21 September 2006, Adelaide, Australia.