RWE Innogy, together with the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) programme, is to trial new methods of collecting wind speed data at the site of Gwynt y Môr, one of Europe’s largest offshore wind farms. Two Light Detection and Ranging units (LIDAR) will be mounted on buoys and be temporarily installed ten miles off the north Wales coast, close to the existing met mast of Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm. Both units will collect wind data which can then be compared with information from the met mast and used to build confidence in this new technology in future wind farm developments. The trials are part of the OWA programme, promoted and coordinated by the Carbon Trust with the aim of reducing the cost of offshore wind power by 10% by 2015. First results are expected to be available in 2013.
COO at RWE Innogy, Paul Coffey, said: “The need for research in the field of offshore wind power continues to be immense. The construction of measuring stations is an important step towards recording and analysing local wind conditions. The data is of fundamental significance for the development, construction and operation of offshore wind power plants. It is for this reason that we support the testing of these measuring buoys.”
If the trials are successful LIDAR devices are expected to be a simpler, quicker, more effective and cheaper alternative to met masts, to be used during offshore wind project development.
The two models being trialled, one manufactured by the Belgian company “FLiDAR“, the other by the British producer “Babcock International Group“, differ particularly in terms of design. The prototype developed by FLiDAR floats on the waves and is undergoing a trial for wave motion compensation. This prototype has already been successfully used in the Belgian North Sea for accurate wind data collection. The measuring buoy from Babcock is currently under construction and is characterised by its low motion buoy design.
Both prototypes will be towed by ship to the chosen measuring site where they are anchored to the seabed. Electricity will be supplied by photovoltaic panels and micro-wind turbines installed on the buoy. Like a conventional met mast, the buoys will supply weather data on wind velocities and wind direction. These trial laser-based measuring systems will be used to record wind velocity and wind direction both horizontally and vertically up to a height of 200 meters.
The trials were initiated by the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator programme which involves RWE Innogy as well as seven other energy utilities and offshore wind developers:
Dong, Eon, Mainstream, Scottish Power, SSE, Statkraft and Statoil.
At 576MW, Gwynt y Môr is one of the largest offshore wind farms currently under construction in Europe, and is a shared investment between funding partners RWE Innogy, Stadtwerke München GmbH and Siemens1. Once fully operational in 2014, energy generation from Gwynt y Môr is expected to be equivalent to the average annual needs of around 400,000 homes2.