Published on May 31st, 2012 | by Breath on the Wind1
University of Barcelona’s New Wind Prospecting Balloon
With a view that the largest future expansion of wind turbines will be offshore, a team coördinated by Bernat Codina has applied expertise in meteorology and aeronautics to create a system ready to find potent wind resources in the open ocean.
The Meteorological Station
Wind power meterology has been described as an applied science that concerns itself with “siting of wind turbines, regional wind resource assessment, and short-term prediction of the wind resource.” A key tool in these assessments is onsite wind measurements and every future and present wind farm will therefore have a measurement station. On land, this only requires some instruments appropriately located. Offshore, however, it may require a foundation similar to those used for the turbines themselves at a cost of several million dollars.
The cost of foundations, time, and the necessary environmental impact study add to the overall cost. In deeper water, foundations to the ocean bottom are not practical and floating platforms are considered an attractive alternative. The University of Barcelona is also considering a cheaper way for meteorological stations.
The Barcelona System
Andriy Lyasota, a Russian aeronautical engineer currently pursuing a master’s degree in energy engineering, has been developing the system, which combines a wi-fi connection with a balloon shaped like a fish. The prototype balloon, pictured above, is approximately 3 meters long and is designed to withstand winds of up to 150 km/h and reach a height of 150 meters. The equipment carried aloft is expected to weigh approximately 4 kilos and, using a GPS, supposed to determine wind strength and direction, irrespective of the balloon orientation. The balloon would be tethered to a common floating buoy. The system is expected to substantially reduce prospecting costs while minimizing the environmental impact.
Data collection tests have been very promising, but “…we must ensure that it can last up to a year in extreme conditions,” says Andriy Lyasota. It may be that this system will not only be used for future floating wind turbines but a closer cousin: a deep-sea, tethered wind turbine farm.