Can wind energy work at my telecommunications site?
What makes a good location for a wind turbine exactly?
How can I check if my site is windy enough?
Sound familiar? These are questions that we get asked through myriads of emails, LinkedIn messages, and phone calls and I bet you have wondered this too. Generally speaking the qualities that make a good telecommunications site make a good wind turbine site. Think open, exposed, elevated places well above surrounding obstructions like trees and buildings.
To put some more flesh on the bones we listed our top five best practices for siting a wind turbine (and a few bonus tips on what to avoid). These are simple ways to help choose a candidate site and get the most out of a small wind turbine supplied by Diffuse Energy. Like all rules of thumb, some discretion is needed, but why not tick these points off as you go?
Like a cowboy from a Hollywood westerner, wind likes to roam free. Open fields and areas that are free of obstacles for several kilometers are the best. These conditions can make for a wind resource that is smooth, continuous, and laminar (think a straight free-flowing river).
Bonus points if this is on top of a hill or ridge line.
The opposite of this are places that have buildings, trees, and other obstacles in the way. This makes the wind flow more messy, chaotic, and turbulent (think a set of white water rapids on the aforementioned river). While our diffuser technology helps performance in turbulent locations compared to standard horizontal axis wind turbines, we don't recommend turbulent locations as a first port of call.
Minus points if this is located on the leeward (sheltered) side of a hill.
There are a number of reasons why larger utility-scale wind turbines are moving offshore. The ocean is a nice smooth surface, ideal for wind resources. In order of increasing surface roughness, compare this with grasslands, vegetation, dense forests, and congested urban areas. Usually the “rougher” the surrounding surface, the slower and more turbulent the wind will be.
It almost goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway) that you should never mount a small wind turbine below the tree canopy, just like you would never install solar PV in a shaded area. Just don't. If locations near trees cannot be avoided, we recommend installation at a height greater than ten meters clear of the surrounding tree canopy. Simple.
The wind speed increases the higher you move above ground level. This is known as the boundary layer effect (for all you aerodynamics nerds out there). Wind flow at ground level is basically stationary, because, well, the ground is stationary.
If the turbine cannot be mounted at the top of a given tower due to telecommunications assets: enter stand-off arms. Stand-off arms are your friend when you need some horizontal spacing between you and the tower (social distancing anybody?). This allows our Hyland 920 to be out in the unobstructed free stream wind resource. Happy days.
Nothing beats getting your hands on some real-world wind resource measurements. For choosing the right site for a wind turbine the gold standard is wind measurements over a 12 month (or longer) period. One year of data fully accounts for seasonal variations. A wind speed measurement device is known as an anemometer. These can range in cost from less than $100 to well beyond x100 that amount. These can be arrayed as “met masts” and are a must for multi-million dollar utility-scale wind turbine installations.
But what to do if you don't have the time or money for a full blown measurement campaign?
Don’t worry, there are a few public databases that can get you started. These have been produced with advanced computational models and verified with field measurements. We would recommend the Australian-based AREMI database. The Global Wind Atlas is also a good starting point. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology can provide more localised recordings for a fee.
What happens once you’ve had a look at AREMI? This brings us to point five below.
A fact of life is that all data requires a bit of interpretation and expert advice. If you want us to check out the wind resource at your telecommunications site, contact us (we’re pretty active on LinkedIn too). All it takes is the GPS coordinates for us to do a quick check.
Diffuse Energy was founded by three academics from the University of Newcastle, Australia, and builds on over 20+ years of peer reviewed research. We are straight shooters and tell it like it is. Our innovative, cancel anytime, pricing model means we want the best for your wind energy project. If your site isn't suitable for wind, we’ll be the first to let you know.
We all dream of living a self-sufficient life, but installing a small wind turbine on a house can be a challenging endeavor. It can be hard to find an attractive wind resource in urban locations. Remember points one and two above?
Obstacles like houses and buildings can cause inconsistency and turbulence for the air flow. This can translate into less than ideal conditions for small wind turbines.
Just because it was really windy during one storm back in 1997 doesn't mean you have landed on a prime wind resource. On the flipside if you have visited a communications site once or twice per year on calm still days doesn't mean the site is a dud.
These events have a funny way of sticking in our memory, don't they? Instead we would recommend to take an annualised approach. What is the wind doing over the duration of the year? What is the average annual wind speed? These are questions we would be asking.
Time to have a serious think about the advantages that wind energy can offer? Contact us now to find out more.