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The Great Lakes Wind Atlas Could Boost Region’s Wind Energy Development

Researchers have compiled meteorological data from several sources to create the first full observational wind atlas of the Great Lakes.

A wind atlas is exactly what it sounds like, a data collection of wind speed and wind direction in a given region, and now, for the first time, researchers from Cornell University and the Technical University of Denmark have combined to create the first full observational wind atlas for the Great Lakes region of North America.

1170px-GreatLakes.A2005027.1635.250mThe wind data sourced for this new high-definition wind atlas was gathered from weather stations, buoys, the NASA satellite QuikSCAT which focuses on wind direction and speed over water bodies, and various other satellites equipped with synthetic aperture radar (SAR).

“The techniques that we have employed optimize the strengths of each measurement type, allowing a longtime series of data to be combined with the exceptional spatial resolution of the satellites – corrected for gaps in data due to ice cover in the winter months – using a new algorithm,” said lead author Paula Doubrawa, a Cornell doctoral candidate in the field of engineering, who along with her adviser Rebecca Barthelmie, a professor of engineering at Cornell, and researchers from the Technical University of Denmark, authored the article Satellite winds as a tool for offshore wind resource assessment: The Great Lakes Wind Atlas, published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.

With this in mind, the Great Lakes Wind Atlas could have a significant impact on developing the Great Lakes wind energy market. As Cornell University noted in its press release, “scientists, economists and environmentalists have touted the potential for wind-energy development in the Great Lakes region” for years, “as it features a large expanse of exploitable wind resources.” Extending over 150,000 square miles (388 498 square kilometers), and touching eight US states and two Canadian provinces, the Great Lakes account for approximately 84% of North America’s surface freshwater, and 21% of Earth’s total surface freshwater.

It’s unsurprising then that the Great Lakes have been so much the focus of wind energy proponents for so long.

Earlier this year, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation wrote a piece highlighting the potential for offshore wind development in the US. The figures presented showed that the US had a total of 4,223 GW of offshore wind generating potential, with 50 GW alone coming from Lake Erie, the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes. Floating wind turbines could be one of the ways in which offshore wind could be best harnessed for electricity, as has been put forward back in 2012.

Image Credit: “GreatLakes.A2005027.1635.250m” by en:Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer – NASA Visible Earth. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

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